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San Diego Sockers Match Preview

March 25, 2021 - Major Arena Soccer League (MASL) - San Diego Sockers News Release

The San Diego Sockers-presented by Kaiser Permanente San Diego-begin the 2021 Ron Newman Cup playoffs with an opening-round matchup against their longtime rivals from the Pacific Division, the Tacoma Stars. With both clubs unable to utilize their home facilities due to state and local COVID restrictions and a continuing lack of access, the series will be played at a neutral site, Toyota Arena in Ontario, California, the home of the Fury.

San Diego and Tacoma share more than their long history together, with a rivalry dating back to the days of Quinn, Zungul, and Preki in the mid-1980s. Both clubs were forced to play road-only schedules in the 2021 campaign, the only two clubs to do so. Ontario began the year on the road but were able to start playing in Toyota Arena in March. Either team could return to Toyota Arena for a possible Ron Newman Cup final, if they advanced along with Ontario to the championship round. Any other combination of clubs will see the finals set in St. Louis, Missouri.

The Sockers (4-6) and Stars (4-7) enter the playoffs as the fifth and sixth seeds. All seven participating teams in the COVID-truncated 2021 season have advanced to the playoffs. Top-seeded Florida has an opening-round bye. Second seed Ontario chose to face #7 seed Dallas, while third seed Kansas City opted for a closer opponent, selected #4 seed St. Louis. The winners will advance to a semifinal held in Kansas City next weekend, where Florida will have their choice of opponent; the remaining two teams will form the second semi-final.

All season long, the Sockers have been led by their defense, which conceded only 43 goals this season (4.3 per game), best in the MASL (Florida second, 4.58). San Diego did not allow an opponent to score more than six goals against them all season. However, the Sockers offense was largely absent before the season finale (a 9-4 win at Dallas), and still averaged a league-worst 4.1 goals per match, only once scoring more than six.

The Stars, like San Diego, have been fortified with outside help on loan for the 2021 season, as ten teams declined to participate due to COVID restrictions. Nonetheless, familiar faces still powered the Tacoma attack, led by forward/head coach Nick Perera, who paced the club with (7-13=20) points. All-Stars Micheal Ramos (8-6=14 points) and Vini Dantas (11-2=13 points) are Perera's most frequent targets for passes. Free-agent signee Chris Toth led the Stars in net with seven starts (3-4 record, 5.28 GAA, .714 SV%), while veteran mainstay Danny Waltman had four starts (1-3, 6.49, .690).

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