The 23 game win streak is over. The playoff optimism is gone.
For this Western Conference Final, the San Diego Sockers wouldn’t have to be traveling south of the border. No, they would be hosting it at Pechanga Arena. The front parking lot of Pechanga Arena, filled with booths and bouncy houses, indicated the team’s willingness for the fans to enjoy their stay.
Hosting the match in San Diego instead of Monterrey was one of the reasons gaining home-field advantage through the playoffs was so important. Last season, the Sockers were eliminated by the Flash 6-4 in Monterrey and looked to return the favor, but the soccer gods deemed that it wasn’t San Diego’s time in the very end.
Monterrey brought the fight to San Diego as they brought the physical defense that they’ve played all season. Multiple times play was stopped for penalties called against Monterrey, but none were as serious as to warrant a blue card. It held the Sockers off long enough to keep them off the scoreboard despite multiple attacks and for the Flash to score first as Franck Tayou got around Guerrero Pino and snuck a shot into the net.
After a second Monterrey goal made the score 2-0, Leonardo De Oliviera got the Sockers closer by one thanks to a surefire strike that zipped past Diego Reynoso in the final minutes of the first quarter.
After simultaneous blue card penalties wore off in the second quarter, a Christian Gutierrez floater sailed into Monterrey’s box where a waiting Kraig Chiles jumped up to use his head. Somehow, Chiles hit the ball with the very back of his head and, perhaps through telepathy, the ball wound up in the back of the net and tied the game up at two goals apiece.
Chiles goal would be the last goal scored for a very long time. Before and after the end of the second half, each team ripped shot after shot at Reynoso and Boris Pardo but were turned away each time. Many a scary moment occurred near the Sockers net with Monterrey relentlessly attacked San Diego’s defense, but were rejected at every moment by either a clutch dive from Pardo or a Sockers defender sacrificing his body to make a save.
No goals were scored for over 40 game minutes after the Chiles header, but the drought was finally ended when De Oliviera kicked a fireball of a shot that Reynoso didn’t have time to react to and set the Sockers up for the win with five minutes to burn in the game.
The Flash weren’t as eager to see their championship hopes sputter out to darkness while letting the Sockers move on, evidenced by their last gasp effort to tie the game. Said last gasp brought Monterrey back from the brink as Brayan Aguilar’s goal tied the game with minutes left in the game and would send the game into overtime.
Overtime was over almost as soon as it began. Taking advantage of a winded Sockers defense, Monterrey hit a shot that bounced off the inside of the crossbar which kept the Sockers hopes alive, but Miguel Vaca’s next shot hit the bottom of the crossbar, teetered the edge of the goal line… and trickled in, signaling the end of the game as well as the Sockers’ season.
At 25-2, the Sockers head into the offseason once again without a championship title. The Monterrey Flash will take on the Milwaukee Wave in the Ron Newman Cup.