While SoccerCity is still in question, many San Diegans have forgotten about their 14-time championship team in the Major Arena Soccer League, the San Diego Sockers.
Last season, the Sockers went 14-6 while beating the Ontario Fury to advance to the Western Conference Final.
However, they lost both games against the Sonora Suns, and now hope to make it back the Ron Newman Cup final. Here are some things to watch out for in this upcoming season:
At one point, this team won 48 games in a row. When the squad started to lose games and take a step backwards, finger-pointing started to happen and the blame game was played. However, that was a Sockers team from the past, and before their run to the Conference Final. This squad is flush with both veteran and youthful talent, which is a mixture that usually ends with a championship. With Kraig Chiles and Matt Clare leading the team, the veterans will most certainly lead the youthful players this season. Practices have been light-hearted, as players have been joking around and enjoying some jovial smack-talking, while keeping play heated and serious. This blend of fun and intensity is a good look at how the team will perform during the later parts of the season.
High Scoring Offense
The MASL always promises high-scoring games and fast tempos, so in order to keep up, teams around the league must have an offense to match the playing style. This is not a problem for the Sockers. With 33-year-old Kraig Chiles and his 320 career goals leading the way, the Sockers are guaranteed to have one of the best offenses in the league. Also helping out will be the newly signed Hiram “Pollo” Ruiz, who scored 28 goals and 12 assists with Sonora last year, and the freshly resigned Matt Clare, who led the team in assists last season. The Sockers scored 149 goals last season, and the improved depth and returning players will look to increase that number on their way to, hopefully, another title.
There is a big reason why the Sockers made it to the conference finals last season, and that big reason was the defense. The Sockers only allowed 90 goals to be scored on them, which was good for first in the Western Conference, and second in the league behind the Baltimore Blast, making them one of the most defensively efficient teams in the league. The average team allowed around 131 goals, and for the Sockers to allow only 90 allows the team’s offense to flourish and gives the team constant leads. A catalyst for the team is goalkeeper Chris Toth, who had a goals-against average of 3.66 and had a league best .815 save percentage during his first team All-MASL season. While he picked up the Goalkeeper of the Year award last year, he’ll also have Boris Pardo fighting for playing time behind him. Pardo is no slouch, as he was a runner-up for Goalkeeper of the Year and will help relieve Toth in the goal. With new signees Luis “Pee Wee” Ortega and John Sosa joining the defense, this defense will be one of the scariest the league will see.
Plain and simple, the Sockers are good. The offense can score with deadly efficiency, while the defense takes care of business on their end via shutting down opposing offenses. If the offense and defense can blend together and play with the improved chemistry they have shown, they will be a nightmare matchup against any team in the MASL. The Sockers won the Pacific Division with a 14-6 record and beat the Ontario Fury to get to the Conference Finals, yet fell to the Sonora Suns. This season, the Sockers will be pushing for not just winning the Pacific Division, but the whole championship. They have the talent, they have the passion, and they have the drive to bring home their 15th championship.