San Diego Downs Baltimore 5-1
In a battle between the two most decorated clubs in the history of indoor soccer, defense ruled the day for the San Diego Sockers.
Goalkeeper Boris Pardo won a duel between MASL Goalkeepers of the Year, besting Baltimore's William Vanzela with a sixteen save effort, as San Diego pitched a second-half shutout to secure a 5-1 victory on Wednesday night at Pechanga Arena San Diego.
"The gameplan was to make no mistakes defensively," said Pardo of the club's best defensive effort of the season, "We read the boards, wrapped guys up, and stepped to guys to give me a chance to see those shots. We just had to trust each other."
The Sockers shut down Baltimore top scorer Vini Dantas, who accrued one assist but did not light the lamp after burning San Diego for a hat trick in a 9-5 loss on January 25 in Maryland. Marked throughout the match 1-on-1 by Sockers defender Guerrero Pino, Dantas was frustrated by a lack of space all night.
"He's a top player, a great forward, physical and smart," said Pino of the challenge, "We tried to stay between him and net and be aware of the balls off the wall. It was a real team effort."
A 1-1 tie at halftime was turned around early in the third quarter behind San Diego's two captains on the floor, Kraig Chiles and Brian Farber. First, it was Chiles breaking the tie, heading home a deflected pass by Cesar Cerda 1:16 into the frame for a 2-1 lead. Next, Chiles used his head for an assist, flicking Farber in on net for a smooth finish with the inside of the right foot to left side netting for a 3-1 advantage at 4:17.
Then, midfielder Hiram "Pollo" Ruiz electrified the crowd of 2,003 at Pechanga Arena with one of the goals of the year, a right-wing bicycle kick that deflected off the head of Baltimore's Jonatas Melo and past Vanzela for a spectacular score at 14:24 of the frame, good for a 4-1 lead.
"I was following Farber's play," said Ruiz of the golazo, "He was fighting against two defenders and I'm not sure if it was a pass or a lucky bounce, but I saw the ball coming in my direction and I didn't think twice about the 'Chilena'".
A tense, hard-fought and tactical first quarter saw both clubs work on possession, playing a deliberate style which led to few chances on either side of the field. The game was scoreless after fifteen minutes of play.
While the style continued into the second quarter, both teams were able to unlock the scoreboard. The Sockers opened the night's scoring thanks to a beautiful offensive effort by Leonardo de Oliveira, who wiggled the ball loose from the tight marking on the right wing, sending a pass across the frame of goal which was deflected by Blast keeper William Vanzela, but found a streaking Taylor Bond on the back post. Bond was able to shuffle the ball home with his shins for his sixth goal of the season, and a 1-0 San Diego lead at 5:04.
It took less than two minutes for Baltimore to answer. Working the ball around the perimeter, top scorer Vini Dantas sent a pass across the red line to the left wing, where Mohamed Ndiaye took a shot on net that deflected off Boris Pardo's hands and into the net at 7:22 for a 1-1 tie.
The Blast dominated the remaining minutes of the half, essentially holding possession for all of the final eight minutes of the half, but Pardo was able to come up with three saves to keep the match knotted at one apiece heading into halftime.
San Diego's determined defense and opportunistic offense carried the result home from there, with Leonardo de Oliveira's goal from Luis "Peewee" Ortega at 10:34 of the fourth quarter concluding the scoring.
On the heels of a six-match road trip in which the Sockers went 3-3, San Diego enjoyed the brief visit to home turf by improving to 3-2 against MASL Eastern Conference competition this season. The Sockers will now re-engage with the road, heading to Ontario on Monday afternoon for a 1:05pm matinee at Toyota Arena against the Fury, before departing to Texas for matches against Mesquite and Dallas.
San Diego will return home on Saturday, February 29 when they play host to the defending MASL Ron Newman Cup champion Milwaukee Wave, a 7:05pm kickoff. Tickets are available online at sdsockers.com/tickets, or by phone at (866) 799-GOAL.
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