Sockers win third straight overtime game after shootout

Credit: Sockers

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Credit: Sockers

The Sockers (7-0-1, 19 pts) flipped the script on the Ontario Fury (5-4-0, 15 pts), doing the same thing the Fury did to them the last time San Diego hosted Ontario. This time the Sockers won, 8-7, after a shootout Wednesday night. San Diego, playing its fourth overtime game of the season and third in as many games, would not go away after looking lethargic to start the latest edition of the I-15 Derby. 

Coming off back-to-back overtime wins south of the border against the Chihuahua Savage, the Sockers showed the effects early on. Boris Pardo allowed a saveable shot to leak into the net off a Jorge Deleon shot at the yellow line just 93 seconds into the contest. San Diego seemed shell-shocked throughout the first quarter as all they could muster on offense were weak shots toward Chris Toth’s goal and were out-possessed most of the quarter.

After physical play from both teams, Ontario doubled their advantage through Jesus Pacheco with 2:13 left in the opening frame. Pacheco got the ball after Robert Palmer forced Cesar Cerda into a bad pass and fired the ball past Pardo from the right-wing. After play resumed, it didn’t take long for the Sockers to make another costly mistake as Mitchell Cardenas would make a bad challenge on Deleon against the boards for a blue card. The ensuing power play would be fruitful for the Fury as Juan Topete blasted the ball in from the yellow line, pushing the lead to three. 

When the team switched sides to begin the second, San Diego was hoping to change the momentum of the match. The Tayou brothers made sure that wasn’t the case as Franck chested the ball to Uzi, who headed the ball into the net 19 seconds into the quarter to give the Fury a four-goal advantage. From there, the physicality of the match amplified as tackles from both sides were flying in hard and fast. Nine total fouls would be called in this period, with 32 overall in the game. San Diego was finally on the board at the 3:44 mark of the second through Christian Gutierrez after Juan Manuel Rojo beat two defenders, drew Toth out of his net and sent the ball across to a streaking Gutierrez for the easy tap-in. 

However, the deficit would be pushed back to four as Justin Stinson found the back of the net at 5:09 after Uzi made a tackle on Tavoy Morgan to push the ball loose and Thiago Goncalves pushed the ball forward to him. Stinson took the ball from midfield, put Cardenas on skates, and pushed the ball just past a lunging Pardo. This made the score 5-1 for Ontario, apparently a death sentence in this rivalry.

After more physical plays and questionable decisions by the referee crew, the clock was winding down to halftime, with the Sockers looking like they’d have to come back from four goals down after the break. Ontario was thinking the same thing and turned off for the last minute, which proved to be a vital mistake.

Pacheco collected a tackle from Uzi off the boards and ran the ball into the corner. He listlessly clears the ball, which gets intercepted by Guerrero Pino. He heads the ball to Morgan, who shakes off his defender and, after Toth blocks Morgan’s shot, Charlie Gonzalez puts away the rebound to make it 5-2 Fury going into halftime. 

The Sockers turned the tables coming out of the locker rooms to start the third. Rojo and Pino both scored before the midway point of the quarter to make it a 5-4 game. Rojo scored after a failed clearance by Toth came off the glass to Felipe Gonzalez, who gave the ball to Brandon Escoto and, after a beautiful first-time cross, Rojo volleyed the shot into the net. Pino was helped by an error by Toth who misplayed the ball and let it trickle between his legs after Pino hit a weak shot off the boards. Ontario calmed things down and held possession for the majority of the rest of the quarter. Shortly after the media time out, with 2:08 left in the quarter, Nestor Hernandez would get a goal back for Ontario as a poor touch from Morgan was taken by Deleon, who drew two defenders and found a passing lane, got the ball across to him for the 6-4 lead. 

Credit: Sockers

The start of the fourth quarter was rife with controversy. Luis “Peewee” Ortega took a shot from the right side that was saved by Toth’s head and left him in pain on the ground. While this was happening, the ball was rebounded out to Cerda, who put the ball back toward the net, and the ball was put in by Israel Sesay and called a goal on the field by the officiating crew. Toth was attended to by the medical staff and later pulled from the game due to concussion protocols. While that was happening, the Fury players and coaching staff were livid with the refs.

Jimmy Nordberg jumped onto the field and started berating the officials about the play. He would be ejected from the game after being shown both a yellow and red card consecutively. After this, the officiating crew discussed the play and ultimately disallowed the call but did not rescind the red for Nordberg. This would be a factor at the end of the game.

This would push the Fury along and have them increase the lead to three after Ontario relentlessly attacked the Sockers’ end. After multiple tackles led to rebounds landing at Ontario feet, Deleon was gifted a golden opportunity right in front of the goal and he did not miss. San Diego would respond on a sloppy goal by Rojo, who headed the ball in after Claysson De Lima made two saves in a row, but the Fury could not clear the ball out. With four minutes left in the game, Sockers coach Phil Salvagio decided to go with the sixth attacker. 

The decision proved to be a genius one as with the extra man, the Sockers were able to move the ball around with ease and pace, and Kraig Chiles was able to find a wide-open Escoto sitting on the back post to put the game at 7-6 Fury. San Diego put Pardo back in goal, only to have to pull him again with 2:32 left. After a few moments of fear, the Sockers were able to regain a stranglehold of possession and made it pay off with Morgan scoring the game-tying goal with 79 seconds left in the contest. After Escoto and Topete fought for the ball along the left sideboards, Escoto emerged with the ball and got past both Uzi Tayou and De Lima. Escoto would tap the ball to a waiting Morgan sitting in the goalkeeper’s box, inexplicably there wide open so close to goal, and he would ensure that the Sockers would see overtime for the third time in six days.

Simply going into overtime ensured that San Diego would indeed gain at least a point, giving them at least one in every match played so far this season. The 10 minute overtime period would not produce a winner, but it would produce more controversy. With 35 seconds left in overtime, Ontario was threatening the Sockers goal with copious amounts of pressure. Leonardo De Oliveira would block a shot and Morgan was off to the races with only one man to beat. He gets past Topete but Topete grabs hold of Morgan and brings him down cynically, drawing a blue card and the refs granting the Sockers a penalty shootout since Morgan was denied a clear goal-scoring opportunity. 

Escoto was given the ball for the shootout, who would end up waiting for over two minutes for the refs to allow him to take it due to the Fury players constantly stepping over the half-line. Whether this was gamesmanship or just trying to get an edge, it worked. Escoto kept looking over his shoulder looking for a pass or to fake out the keeper but De Lima was up to the task and denied Escoto the game-winning goal. 

The shootout started with Goncalves missing wide to the left. Chiles would step up and bury his shootout with a neat shot over the right glove of De Lima. Stinson, potentially one of the best 1v1 players in the league according to the Fury broadcast team, missed high and off the crossbar leaving Escoto with a chance at redemption. He would put the ball into the back of the net on the same side that Chiles did, completing the comeback and grabbing two points in the process. 

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This was the fourth game of six in two weeks, and the Sockers are 4-0 in those games, all on the road, gaining nine points in the process of that. With three of those wins coming in overtime, they do end up losing points, but, as of now, they are sitting on a four-point lead over Ontario and are looking comfortable in the MASL playoff picture. On Friday night, the Sockers return home to face the Tacoma Stars (2-4-0, 6 pts). This will be followed by San Diego welcoming Utica City FC (2-7-0, 6 pts) on Sunday. 

With the Sockers almost through this grueling part of their schedule, seeing them where they are in the standings has to make every supporter feel confident in their upcoming games. With four out of the next five games coming against Tacoma, San Diego should be looking to lock in some regulation wins over that span. That being said, the Stars always play the Sockers extremely well, and that makes Friday’s contest a must-see attraction.

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