Sockers rewrite the script, beat the Fury on the road

Credit: SD Sockers

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Credit: SD Sockers

The San Diego Sockers used another first-half outburst but held on this time at Toyota Arena in Ontario to finish off the Fury 7-2 Sunday night.

A hat-trick from Tavoy Morgan, Christian Gutierrez adding another two, and Boris Pardo saving 14 of the 16 shots faced led the Sockers on the road in the third edition of the season in the I-15 Derby. San Diego pressed hazard throughout the game and did not let up after halftime like what happened just one week ago.

Both teams came out with a point to prove, and the Sockers were the first to do so five and a half minutes into the game. Brandon Escoto, after a great team defensive effort to get the ball, struck off the glass past Chris Toth and Kraig Chiles put away the rebound right in front of goal for the first goal of the evening and his 592nd point in his career. Tavoy Morgan only waited a minute to double that lead when he got the ball from a Cesar Cerda steal and took a shot from the left side of the field above the Ontario yellow line and hit the bottom right corner of Toth’s goal. San Diego would keep the pressure on Ontario throughout the rest of the first period, frustrating them and forcing mistakes. Franck Tayou would get a yellow card for dissent just as the quarter would end, arguing with the referees over a non-call at midfield.

The Sockers continued their excellent defensive play in the first five minutes of the second quarter, trading the bulk of possession for the Fury, barely being able to penetrate their defense or get any quality shots off. This defense would lead to offense as Leonardo De Oliveira would come out a pileup on the boards with the ball and pass it ahead to a streaking Gutierrez who just needed to tap the ball around a charging Toth to increase the Sockers lead to three at the 10:29 mark of the second. Ontario would continue to dominate possession, and San Diego kept absorbing the pressure, but miscommunications led to Brandon Escoto picking up a blue for tripping halfway through the second and putting Ontario on the power play. This led to the Fury getting some great chances but were unable to put away their best one when Juan Topete could not put away a rebound off a Justin Stinson shot into an open net.

After the penalty to Escoto was killed, the Sockers took the game by the scruff of the neck, taking control of possession. After a foul to the right of the Ontario goal, Charlie Gonzalez, Chiles, and Morgan combined for a grand show of set-piece play. Charlie played the ball off to the corner, where Chiles was able to run onto it and blast it across the mouth of goal where Morgan was patiently waiting to tap the ball into the back of the net, giving the Sockers a 4-0 lead with  4:19 remaining in the first half.

Morgan would not be done, though, as he completed his first-half hat-trick two minutes later. Morgan would collect his own mistake as he mishandled a pass that came in from Leo, where he would find Charlie open on the right corner of the boards. Charlie would smash a pass off the boards into the feet of a sprinting Morgan who would hammer home the fifth goal of the half for the Sockers. Jorge Deleon would pull one back for Ontario, however, before the end of the half. After Christian Alvarado shanked a shot wide off the top of the glass to the left of goal, Deleon was able to come up with the rebound and, after making Cerda miss a tackle, blasted the shot above Pardo’s hands to make the score 5-1.

The dreaded 5-1, the same score that the teams entered the second half at just seven days earlier. The story would start just like it did the previous Sunday, with the Fury scoring within the first five minutes of the half. After an extended possession, extreme pressure from Ontario, and a penalty kill (Palmer for boarding 90 seconds into the quarter), the Sockers would get some bad luck. Palmer passed the ball in deep to Franck Tayou, who would try to find a teammate, but the ball was intercepted by Juan Manuel Rojo, who would pass the ball past Pardo.

Credit: Sockers

San Diego could have hung their heads and said, “Oh no, not again,” but they would fire up the pressure immediately to avoid another epic collapse. The teams would go back and forth, with both Toth and Pardo making great saves to stifle the offenses of both teams. Captain Chiles would see blue with 3:17 left in the third when he went into the back of Israel Sesay and flung him to the floor.

Pardo would make save after save on this power play and kill off the penalty. Chiles, however, would not be out of the woods as he would continue yelling at the ref after being taken down by Stinson and pick up a yellow and another 5 minutes of thinking time in the penalty box. With 20 seconds left off a free kick shot saved by Toth, the Fury would have a golden opportunity on the other end, but Uzi Tayou would miss wide. In the middle of all that, Charlie Gonzalez would pull up with an apparent hamstring injury, something to keep an eye on for the next few weeks.

The final quarter’s theme was defense, defense, defense. Both teams made fantastic plays to thwart the other, as well as Pardo showing why he needs to be in the conversation for GK of the year, keeping Ontario and their high-powered offense out of the net. The Fury would keep the bulk of the possession in the opening half of the fourth quarter, but a mistake with 5:38 left in the game led to a Sockers goal. Sesay would see blue after pinning Morgan against the boards, and San Diego would work the ball around, finishing with Leo picking up a rebound off a save by Toth and finding a wide-open Gutierrez to put the Sockers back up by four.

Ontario would start to pull Toth to have a sixth attacker on the field, but that would not be enough to bring them back into the game. The Sockers would keep possession for an extended period of time and find space against a pressing Fury defense that had no initial answers for the Sockers late-game passing. This would lead to an own goal when Rojo would make a run down the left side boards and have his cross into the box deflected into the goal by Topete. Franck Tayou would get a blue with 3:26 left for a dangerous tackle on Guerrero Pino, and that would essentially end the threat of the Fury making any real comeback into the game.

The Sockers (4-0-1, 13 pts) needed all 3 points out of this game, and they came in with the same fire and fervor they had in the first half of last weekend’s matchup. They played the same script. However, they rewrote the ending by continuing to play out on the front foot and not letting Ontario (3-3-0, 8pts) dictate the majority of the second half. Although he was credited with a goal, Franck Tayou was once again held powerless in the game. Pino and crew were able to keep him in check and, even with four shots on goal, leave him without actually scoring in the game.

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“We came out to finish our chances and were strong defensively as well,” said hat-trick hero Morgan after the game, “The game-plan from Coach (Salvagio) was to be aggressive, go forward, and be tight defensively. We played well as a team.” Morgan, who leads the team with eight goals this season, scored seven of those eight in these last three games against the Fury.

San Diego now holds a five-point lead over Ontario in the MASL West standings and will be looking down the barrel of five more games over the next 13 days. Next weekend the Sockers will head down to Mexico to face the Chihuahua Savage in back-to-back games Friday and Saturday. After that, they will once again head up the I-15 with yet another January date with these Ontario Fury before being back at Pechanga for a Friday fracas with the Tacoma Stars and a Sunday showdown with Utica City FC.

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