This isn’t the Cal Express of last year.
After being treated as the MASL’s punching bag for the better part of the decade, the Express brought their own boxing gloves to the 2019-2020 season, intent on collecting some payback.
After stunning the San Diego Sockers at Pechanga Arena, the Sockers were once again on the ropes as the Express blitzed the Sockers’ defense with a barrage of high-powered blows meant to cripple the Sockers.
Instead of crumbling to the floor and falling to a ten-count like they did on November 24th, San Diego found their second wind in the fourth quarter and fought their way off the ropes to knock Cal to the canvas in front of their 433 (it’s a small concourse) fans in attendance with a 6-5 victory.
San Diego’s fourth straight victory didn’t come easy. The smaller Express field left less space to dribble, pass the ball, and set up scoring opportunities, forcing head coach Phil Salvagio to get creative with his offense and form different plays on the spot.
San Diego did themselves no favors with their undisciplined play on the pitch. After picking up only two blue cards against both Ontario and Sonora in the previous homestead, the Sockers were shown a blue card six times in Turlock. Before today’s game, the Sockers had been on the receiving end of seven blue cards on the season.
Both teams traded goals and the lead all throughout the night. A steady diet of goals by Leonardo de Oliveira and Luis “Pee Wee” Ortega, the latter of whom scoring twice in the fourth quarter, along with a contribution by Eddie Velez kept the Sockers in the fight against a Cal squad that was hungry for another victory against the team that dominated them for so long.
It was de Oliviera’s fourth-quarter assist to Travis Pittman, however, that finally pushed San Diego over the edge. With keeper Martin Sanchez playing up in his own box, Pittman snuck past the unsuspecting goalie and frantically waved for de Oliviera to notice the mismatch.
It didn’t take long for the Brazillian striker to find the now isolated Pittman next to the goal, and his ensuing pass to the 28-year-old midfielder found its mark in the back of the net to give San Diego a 5-4 lead.
Pittman’s goal was one of three fourth-quarter goals by San Diego that brought the visitors to victory. Cal tried to orchestrate a last-minute comeback with an eleventh-minute goal by Ivan Campos, but the defense stood their ground in the final seconds to deliver the knockout punch that kept the Express down for good.