San Diego, California
The San Diego Sockers (14-3) faced an adversary in their rivals, the Sonora de Sol (11-7), and despite emotions flaring and a fast-paced Sonora offense, the Sockers took the victory thanks to two goal games by Kraig Chiles and Jamie Lovegrove and a stellar performance by Chris Toth in front of their largest crowd of the season, with 3,827 rabid fans in attendance.
The match was heated from the beginning and emotions ran high early after John Sosa was called for a handball inside the San Diego box, and was also given a blue card, much to his chagrin. Franck Tayou made good on the ensuing penalty kick and put the ball past a diving Toth to make the score 1-0.
However, Tayou would get a blue card of his own after making contact to the head of Sosa and generously gifted the Sockers with a power play. Chiles would deliver the goods on a free kick, sneaking it past a wall of Sonora defenders and equalizing the game.
Both defenses were stout as well, with San Diego consistently spoiling Sonora with strong defensive efforts by Brandon Escoto and Toth. Both sides also got heated with the referees, with Sonora’s bench even given a warning to settle down after constant debating. Both teams would remain tied going into the second quarter.
Sonora came out guns blazing in the second quarter, but were unable to get it past the stoic Toth. San Diego didn’t have many shots on goal as they spent a majority of the quarter playing defense, but missed a chance to take the lead when Chiles missed a header that went right above the crossbar. San Diego had to endure a power play and, despite multiple shots coming in, was able to kill it off.
In the final minute of the quarter, Chiles hopped right on the field on a substitution and collected a pass from Escoto. The captain then proceeded to rattle a shot just below the crossbar and celebrated the goal with some fans and his teammates. The score, thanks to the goal, was 2-1 after two quarters of play.
The alumni game took place during halftime, with 30 alumni taking place. It was the Guy Newman-managed Blue Team that defeated the Vidal Fernandez and Zoltan Toth-managed White Team 3-1. Scoring goals for the blue team were George Katakalidis, Nate Hetherington, and Diego Terry, with Brian Quinn collecting an assist. Shawn Beyer collected the only goal for the White Team. General Manager Sean Bowers, who suited up for the White Team, said “there was a lot of history on that field…a lot of guys who sweated together and bled together” and said that “next year is going to be special because it is an anniversary for us”. Fans should be very excited for next year’s alumni game as it is sure to be a grand one.
The next half again saw Sonora bear down on the San Diego defense and finally crack through thanks to a chip shot from Gustavo Rosales that went right over the top of Toth’s head. With the score tied 2-2, San Diego went back on the offensive. Jamie Lovegrove, the newest acquisition for the Sockers, made his presence felt thanks to a perfectly placed ball from Cesar Cerda, blasting the ball past Bernaldino Valdovinos for his first goal in a San Diego uniform.
The lead didn’t last long, however, as Tayou put a cheeky spin move on Sosa to leave him spinning to the ground and then faked out Toth to pop a chip shot over the goalkeeper’s head to tie it up. The veteran Lovegrove would strike like a viper in the next 20 seconds, anticipating and intercepting a backwards pass from a Sonora defender inside the Sonora box and bringing Valdovinos to his knees as the striker took the pilfered ball and buried it in the back of the net for a 4-3 Sockers lead. This would be the score going into the final quarter of play.
The fourth quarter saw much of the same, with both teams playing solid defense and the offense coming fast and furious at both goal keepers. In the final minutes of the game, Luan Oliveira would make himself known, squeezing past two Sonora defenders and hitting a dribbler past a sprawling Valdovinos and increasing the San Diego lead.
It was after this goal that the game turned into a regular day of the Unites States Congress, with both teams bickering and shoving each other while stopping the action altogether. With the referees all but losing control of the game, both sides were handed blue card penalties, with Escoto and Roberto Escalnte being charged with two minutes in the penalty box for unsportsmanlike conduct. Victor Quiroz, a former Socker, was brought in as a sixth man, but left the box wide open for Ray Contreras to drop a dime in, increasing the lead to 6-3.
Quiroz would have the ball in his side of the field, but an untimely trip led to a now-freed Escoto to swipe the ball and tap it into an empty net for the final Sockers goal of the night. The on-field fireworks weren’t over, as Valdovinos was carded for tripping Oliveira. Brian Farber charged forward, ready to defend his teammate, and his jawing earning him a yellow card for dissent. Valdovinos would argue with both Toth and Farber while the latter fired up the crowd while going to the penalty box. As the clock struck zero, it was the Sockers who were the glorious victors of the game, taking it 7-3.
Of his first goal, Lovegrove said “getting goals for this team is hopefully what I can do more frequently” and said that “no matter who scores, I’m here to do a job”. Of the emotions on the field, Oliveira said that the game against Sonora is the “El Classico” game between the two and said that “there were no bad intentions” when it came to the pushing and shoving. Chiles said that “there is mutual respect for each other, but for 60 minutes we’re rivals and there was no love lost” and was happy that “we’re firing on all cylinders offensively” after a four-game spell where they lost track a little bit.
San Diego goes across the country to play back-to-back games against the Florida Tropics on Friday, February 16 and Saturday, February 17. Both games start at 4:35 p.m. PT. The Sockers will return to Valley View Casino Center on Saturday, February 24, 7:05 p.m. to host Rio Grande Valley on College & $2 Bud Light Night. The first 2,000 supporters will receive a free pair of Sockers sun glasses. Parking is on the house as per usual and the game can be watched live from YouTube at the MASL’s official page at MASL.tv.