In their game against the Ontario Fury, the Sockers had to face an old friend in goalkeeper Chris Toth. Now, against their rivals the Tacoma Stars, they faced yet another old friend; midfielder Matt Clare.
Clare had been traded by the team in a three-team blockbuster deal that netted San Diego defender Guerrero Pino. Now, Clare suits up for the Sockers’ rival and has made an early impact for his new squad, scoring four goals in the first three games.
Many members of the Sockers are friends with Clare, but as soon as cleats hit the pitch, friendships vanish. Like with Toth and Ontario, the Sockers knew that business must be taken care of.
San Diego immediately went to work as, in the first minute of play, Kraig Chiles put the Sockers in the lead with a solid strike that zipped over the diving hands of Tacoma keeper Danny Waltman. Waltman would get his payback minutes later, slinging the ball like a rugby player to a wide open Nick Perera, and the player-coach curved a bender that went right past the lunging Boris Pardo.
The shots for both teams were coming in fast and furious, and it seemed like Tacoma’s fast-paced offense would break the San Diego defense. But the boys in blue stood fast and held off the relentless assault from the enemy Stars. As time waned on the first quarter, both Chiles and midfielder Brian Farber found themselves in a kerfuffle in the middle of the box, but it was Farber who struck gold with a last second goal to put San Diego ahead.
The game started getting more and more physical in the second quarter, with players pushing and shoving each other as tensions rose. Neither team could take advantage of blue card penalties, but Joey Gjertsen put one past Pardo with seconds left in the half to tie up the game.
Despite Adam West putting the Stars ahead early in the third quarter (with Clare on for the assist), the Sockers got some offense from an unlikely source. Defensive wizard Raymundo Contreras, known more for his work on the back end of the pitch, seemingly cast a spell on the Tacoma defense and kicked a blazing ball that rebounded off a Tacoma defender and into the net for a goal.
San Diego got a very lucky goal from Leo de Oliviera, who was surrounded by Tacoma defenders and was forced to make a backward poke with the ball. Somehow, the ball bounced off the fingertips of Waltman and trickled into the net for the Sockers to take a lead.
Said luck would run out for the Sockers. Two goals would come crashing in, one by Alex Megson and the other by West, forcing Pardo to leave the box to make a save only for the Stars to swoop in on the open net and score. Even with Hiram Ruiz in as a sixth attacker, the Sockers couldn’t bag a comeback and lost at home, breaking a 16-game winning streak.
This was a game where one goalkeeper had to lose and, in a battle between Waltman and Pardo, it was the latter who drew the short straw despite making ten saves. San Diego just had no answers for Waltman, who drew 22 saves on the game. But it doesn’t excuse some mental mistakes made on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
The Sockers will finally get somewhat of a reprieve after playing three games in six days, as their next game is against the Dallas Sidekicks on the 26th, the day after Christmas. The Sockers won’t get a home game until the fifth of January when they square off with the Turlock Express.