Sockers Ambushed At The Finish Line
ST. LOUIS - Patrick Thompson's rising shot found the back of the net with just under 37 seconds left in the fourth quarter, as the host St. Louis Ambush outlasted the San Diego Sockers by a 4-3 final score on Friday night at The Family Arena. St. Louis (5-6) snapped a three-game losing streak, while the Sockers (3-3) fell back to .500. Both clubs will play again on Sunday afternoon.
A see-saw match saw neither team gain better than a one-goal lead throughout the contest, with three ties. Cesar Cerda, Taylor Bond, and Brandon Escoto scored for San Diego, while Vadim Cojocov netted a pair of goals for St. Louis. The Ambush were led by the efforts of goalkeeper Paulo, who stopped 16 of 19 shots faced.
The Sockers essentially pit-stopped back in their home city this week on the way from Florida to St. Louis, flying in Monday and out on Thursday. Not making the trip to Missouri were Kraig Chiles and Slavisa Ubiparipovic, both out with injury. Felipe Gonzalez was also unavailable for selection for San Diego, while the Ambush remained without a host of players recently lost to injury and illness, including defending Rookie of the Year Duduca Carvalho.
A rough-and-tumble first quarter saw a pair of blue cards shown to the Sockers, limiting their attack. Strong work in net from William Vanzela (15/19 saves) and the San Diego penalty killers kept the Ambush (wearing early '80s retro St. Louis Steamers jerseys) off the board. The game was scoreless after fifteen minutes.
The Sockers opened the second quarter scoring on a textbook corner give-and-go from Leonardo de Oliveira to Cesar Cerda, who finished inside the right post for his third goal of the season, and a 1-0 San Diego lead at 4:49.
The Ambush were quick to respond, as Cojocov turned a bouncing loose ball on left wing into a deflected goal inside the left post at 5:17, knotting the score at one. St. Louis high pressure then led to a turnover and out-manned rush, and Tony Walls' crossing pass found Lucas Almeida on the back post for an easy tap-in and a 2-1 Ambush lead at 6:16, two goals in just under a minute.
The 2-1 score held until halftime, and the Sockers came out of the locker room with a mind on possession and attack. San Diego levied 15 of their 32 shots on the night in the quarter, and tied the score on Taylor Bond's first goal of the year, a lovely low shot through the legs of the defender at 3:43 of the period.
However, Cojocov scored an inch-perfect restart goal at 8:38 of the third to force the quarter to a draw. A restart shot from the right wing eluded the defense before striking the exact middle of the inside of the left post and finding its way home for a 3-2 St. Louis lead, which was the score after 45 minutes.
Again, San Diego battled back to tie, this time on an offensive zone steal from Leonardo de Oliveira, who sent a lead pass to Brandon Escoto up the middle of the field. While the left footer's first shot was blocked, Escoto faked shooting on the rebound, clearing out the defense before striking with his right, sneaking the ball just inside the post for his team-leading sixth goal of the season. The game was tied 3-3 at 3:52.
Chances clamped down in the fourth quarter, with both teams trying to block every shot and pass. In the final minute, a shot by Lucas Almeida ripped off the Sockers' left crossbar and came back into the middle of the field. JT Thomas tapped it down to Thompson, who struck a perfect rising volley over Vanzela's arms for the game-winner.
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Major Arena Soccer League Stories from February 27, 2021
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