Scheduling can be extremely cruel in the game of indoor soccer. The San Diego Sockers can tell you this from experience as, after playing five games in twelve days earlier in the season.
While today’s game against the El Paso Coyotes didn’t come after a grueling schedule like this, it did come two days after an emotional slugfest against the Ontario Fury, fighting their way off the ropes to win the game.
Despite El Paso sacrificing their bodies to block shot after shot, San Diego’s offense overcame their early struggles to ride more second-half momentum to win their sixth straight game.
Again, the Sockers found themselves on the back foot to start off the game as, late in the first quarter, Alex Caceres chipped the ball over two Sockers defenders and a drawn-out Boris Pardo to score the first goal of the night.
The next goal to score is one that was initially contested by San Diego. A high shot from El Paso’s Jorge Rios chipped off the bottom of the crossbar, broke the goal line, then bounced out of the box. After some confusion as to if it was a goal or not, the red lights flashed to signal a goal.
“It was a near-post shot, and he (Rios) just roofed it,” Pardo said on the wacky goal. “It just happens.”
Being down by two goals was nothing new to a Sockers squad that had to make comebacks in their last two games, as they immediately began to storm back after Guerrero Pino threaded the needle with a pass to Kraig Chiles in the box, who toe-poked the first goal of the night while adding some flair with an acrobatic split at the same time. With the goal, Chiles extended his point streak to eight games.
Chiles would be involved in the next San Diego goal, knocking a pass to Brian Farber on a set piece. Farber, with only the keeper to beat, snuck the ball in between the keeper and the left post to tie the game for San Diego at 2-2 before halftime.
Despite taking shot after shot at the Coyotes, each one was blocked Eduardo Arevalo Gonzales. That is until Leonardo De Oliveira lightly chipped a shot over Gonzales to give San Diego their first lead of the game.
The offense finally clicked in the fourth quarter, but that doesn’t mean El Paso would go down without a fight. After Chiles extended the lead to two, El Paso burned down the field to score their own goal immediately after to bring the lead back down to one. A short-lived two-goal lead was achieved on a Farber crack shot goal, and Luis Palacios tipped a shot past Pardo, who couldn’t corral a ball off the wall.
San Diego would not be going into another overtime on this day, thanks to Brandon Escoto scoring the sixth Sockers goal of the night. A sixth attacker did little to help El Paso, as Luis Ortega’s pot shot on an open goal put the Coyotes down for good, and San Diego won their sixth straight game.
“We stepped up in the second half, we just need to make sure we’re stepping up at the start of the games,” said Pardo after the game, referencing the Sockers’ tendency to not burst out of the gate. In the last three games against Ontario and El Paso, the Sockers have scored two goals in the first half compared to six goals from the Fury and Coyotes.
“We have been coming out a bit flat this whole season… we’re trying to learn from our mistakes in the first half,” said Farber on his team’s tendency to start slow, and concluded by declaring “We want to get home-field advantage in the playoffs… it’s championship or bust.”
In terms of the playoffs, the Sockers are on the right path for home-field advantage. They lead the Pacific division with an 8-1 record, three games ahead of the second place Tacoma Stars. In the Western Conference, their .899 win percentage trumps the Monterrey Flash’s .833 win percentage. However, Monterrey has only played in six games this season, one of which was an overtime loss to San Diego.
San Diego will hit the road for the next trip against the Stars in Tacoma, who served them their only loss of the season so far. The Sockers must come to this game firing on all cylinders in all four quarters as, if they find themselves down in the second half, Stars keeper Danny Waltman can and will become a human brick wall that stops everything that is shot at him.