The San Diego Sockers (10-0) continued their winning ways after a sweep of the Turlock Express, this time beating the Tacoma Stars (5-7) thanks to solid defensive play and a hat trick by midfielder Brandon Escoto. The Sockers played with heavy hearts after learning of the sudden passing of Erick Tovar’s sister, Ana Catalina, and took a moment of silence before the game in her memory.
The first quarter began with both teams competing for possession, but that battle was mostly won by the Sockers. However, their attempts on goal, while fast and furious, were mostly off target. Shots by Matt Clare, Brandon Escoto, and Ray Contreras were all wide of their marks, but kept Tacoma goalie Danny Waltman on his toes throughout the quarter. Tacoma nearly caught Chris Toth sleeping on the job, but thanks to magnificent defense, they were kept off of the scoreboard.
The Sockers looked like they had caught a break when Edgar Aguilar curved a shot past Waltman and scored. However, the goal was called back after the referee deemed that Aguilar hit the ball with his arm and waved off the goal. The fans were clearly not happy with the referee and made their opinions known, loudly vocalizing their thoughts on the referee with hails of booing and, at some point, insults.
San Diego finally broke through when Waltman set down the ball and looked to pass it off. He did not see Brian Farber come flying in and making a precise slide tackle to knock the ball right past him and into the back of the net for a San Diego goal. Later in the quarter, Max Touloute crossed a pass intended for captain Kraig Chiles, but it sailed past his foot. Felipe Gonzales was there to collect the pass and crossed the ball back in where Chiles, now back on his feet after missing the first pass, hammered the pass into the top left corner of the ball. Andrew Lorei tried to get another shot in, but it was blocked by Waltman as the buzzer sounded the end of the period and the Sockers took the lead 2-0.
The second period began similar to how the first quarter began, with both teams jostling for possession of the ball. There was also a lot of physical defense being played out, as the teams pushed and shoved each other to win possession, while the referees let the boys play on. Toth was nearly scored open as the ball squirted out of his reach, but the San Diego defense held fast as they cleared away the danger. Escoto then found himself squaring off against a Tacoma defender and intercepted a pass from him. Waltman had left the goal unattended for some reason and his desperation attempt to save Escoto’s shot was all for naught as Escoto celebrated his first goal of the night.
Gonzales was able to break away from the defense and tore down the field with two Stars defenders in hot pursuit. Defender Chase Hanson, in an attempt to stop the attack, grabbed Gonzales by his arm and dragged him down. The referees immediately handed Hanson a blue card penalty and sent him off to the penalty box for two minutes. Chiles was given the opportunity for a shootout, but wasn’t able to sneak the ball past Waltman. The power play opportunity was not wasted as a beautiful display of teamwork and passing took place as Jonh Sosa passed to Chiles, who faked a shot and passed off to Escoto, who snuck right behind an unsuspecting Waltman and redirected Chiles’ pass into the top left corner of the net, making the score 4-0.
Seconds later, Hiram Ruiz found Lorei wide open with a perfect passing lane. Lorei sniped a shot into the back of the net to score his first career goal in the MASL, one that he will remember for a long time. San Diego finished their scoring onslaught after Escoto took Anthony Medina’s pass in stride and blasted it into the net, earning Escoto a hat trick on the night, ending the second quarter with a 6-0 lead.
Tacoma finally got on the board in the third quarter as Alex Megson took advantage of a diving Toth to send the ball into the top left corner of the box. Minutes later, the Stars were crashing the box again and Toth was fell to the ground trying to block a shot. Joseph Cariel was there to grab the rebounded ball and hit it over the head of Toth to score the Stars’ second goal of the night.
Tacoma certainly made the adjustments at the half and stepped up on defense, snuffing out every San Diego offensive drive and keeping their attackers at bay. The Sockers were forced to play a man down as well after Medina was caught red-handed tripping an opposing player and got slapped with a blue card penalty. With Tacoma now playing with an advantage, San Diego hunkered down to play more conservative defense and fended off the Stars as they pushed against the Sockers’ defense. San Diego was able to limit the damage and kill off the penalty play, but as time expired, they were unable to score and took a 6-2 lead into the final quarter of play.
The fourth began with yet another Sockers goal as Escoto was able to hook Farber up with a pass right in the box so the latter could blast a shot into the back of the net. The Sockers had another opportunity to cash in after a Hanson blue card gave them a power play, but Tacoma held strong and killed off the power play. However, as Contreras moved to block Cariel’s kick, he accidentally kicked the ball into his own net as Toth was slightly out of place and didn’t see Contreras at his side, and the Stars were given a free goal.
They would give that goal right back on a power play after Chiles tried to pass a ball off the wall. A Star defender was there to corral the ball, but it bounced away from him and right past Waltman as the credit went to Kraig Chiles for the goal. The score would remain at 8-3 until the very end of the quarter and the Sockers would take a critical game going into a two game road stretch. After the game, Chiles said that the team “is gelling” and that “good players play well with good players” referring to the solid chemistry the team has shown the past few games
The Sockers are on the road on Thursday, January 18 at 7:05 p.m. as they square off with the Ontario Fury. The team will look to extend their winning streak on the road and all of the action can be caught on the official YouTube page of the MASL at MASL.tv.