San Diego, California
The San Diego Sockers (17-3) tuned-up for their next two games and eventual playoff run by breezing past the Rio Grande Valley Barracudas (3-19) 13-3 in front of 3,327 rabid fans. Matt Clare and Anthony Medina had hat tricks for the squad, while Kraig Chiles chipped in five assists, while Chris Toth only allowed the three goals anchoring the defense.
The Barracudas stunned the Sockers after Reynol Fuentas Jr’s reset shot bounced off the post and into the corner of the goal. San Diego would respond by slamming their foot on the gas pedal and not letting up, with goals by Medina and Clare giving the Sockers the 2-1 lead in the first five minutes.
This was just the beginning of the scoring onslaught by the Sockers, as Clare would tack on another goal from the red line by sniping a shot under the legs of Barracuda goalie Fidel Garcia. Seconds later, Medina would get the ball from Hiram Ruiz and curl a shot past the outstretched hands of Garcia for a goal.
The first quarter fury would end after Chiles kicked a backwards pass to Brian Farber for yet another goal, and that first quarter of action would end with the Sockers taking a hefty 5-1 lead.
The second quarter had a similar story to the first, but instead of Rio Grande Valley scoring first, it was San Diego drawing first blood thanks to a blue card penalty on RGV’s Carlos Portales that gifted San Diego a power play. Brandon Escoto passed to a wide open Clare near the box and he made it look easy, casually booting the ball into the back of the net for a goal.
With all of the goals being scored, Escoto was looking to collect one of his own. Taking a short pass from Toth, Escoto resembled a one-man army as he charged down the field and slipped past four Barracuda defenders en route to his first goal of the game. The Barracudas would get a power play of their own after a Ray Contreras blue card, and cashed in immediately, with Antonio Manfut bending the ball over a wall of Sockers and into the top left corner of the goal.
The Sockers refused to let up, though, and would put two more goals up on the scoreboard thanks to impressive efforts by Farber and Max Toullete, with Kraig Chiles getting the assist for both goals. San Diego would take a 9-2 lead after two quarters of play.
The following two quarters saw San Diego play a conservative style of soccer so as not to embarrass Rio Grande Valley by inflating the score. Despite the Barracudas’ best efforts, the Sockers would still put up two more goals. Ruiz would get the first of the two after collecting a rebounded shot from Chiles and slamming the ball back where it came from for a goal.
Chiles would finally get into the scoring with a late goal of his own thanks to an aerial pass from Farber. Chiles stabbed at the pass and knocked it into the back of the goal. This would result in the Sockers taking a 11-2 lead into the final quarter of play.
The fourth quarter was also relatively quiet. The Barracudas would add one more goal after Luiz Mota was forced to dance around Toth to toe-tap the ball into the back of the net. Medina would complete his hat trick thanks to a pass from Andrew Lorei, a big and tall boy who wreaked havoc for the Sockers 2, and now gets to play for the upper-level squad.
The final goal would be courtesy of captain Chiles, who cracked a shot past the flailing Garcia to help pad his stats. The Barracudas, realizing that they were finished a quarter ago, simply held the ball in place for the last thirty seconds and mercifully ended the game as they watched the clock strike zero and read out a 13-3 victory in favor of the home team.
Medina praised Clare for his hat trick and feels that the Sockers “are looking good and we got guys coming off of injury”, while Clare said that “We’re doing things in order to build for bigger things… to win a championship”. Chiles thanked the home-field advantage and was surprised that he tallied so many assists and “was able to pass the ball to his teammates and get a couple goals myself”, while the rest of the team will be trying to mend and rest their bodies before the playoff run.
The Sockers have two more games before they begin their playoff run, and will be squaring off with the Ontario Fury on Thursday March 1 at 7:05 p.m.. They will conclude the season with a home game at Valley View Casino Center against the El Paso Coyotes on Saturday, March 3 at 7:05 p.m.. All games will be live streamed via YouTube on the MASL’s page at MASL.tv and are commentated on by the eccentric Nate Abaurrea. Parking, of course, is free, courtesy of the team.