Sockers Run out of Gas in Florida
LAKELAND, FLORIDA -- For thirty minutes, the San Diego Sockers and Florida Tropics played a match worthy of a playoff. Then, the tank hit empty.
Playing their fourth match in six days, in three states, three time zones and two countries, the Sockers faded in the second half on Saturday night at the RF Funding Center in Lakeland, seeing the Eastern Conference-leading Tropics net seven goals to post an 8-5 victory. Victor Perreiras scored a hat trick for Florida (13-1), which won its eighth straight contest.
"Oh, definitely," said head coach Phil Salvagio when asked if his team ran out of energy after halftime.
What the Sockers (11-4) lamented after the contest was their opportunity to reshape the match in the opening thirty minutes. Granted three power plays in the opening two quarters, San Diego came up empty, managing only two shots over the six minutes of man advantage. Florida netted twice on the power play in the third quarter, making special teams a key story.
"That's the difference," said Salvagio, "We went 0-for-4 on the power play, we even had a six-on-four at the end and couldn't put it in. We needed to get a lead, and we couldn't get a lead."
In a match which was billed as a possible Ron Newman Cup Final preview, the Tropics had the advantage of a week's worth of rest and training, while the Sockers made their way from Monterrey to Sonora, to Orlando (through Phoenix), and then on to Lakeland. The opening quarter was tense and scoreless until the Tropics' Zach Reget and Drew Ruggles worked a perfect 1-2 play at the top of the arc. Ruggles ran on Reget's close quarters pass to toe-poke home the night's opening goal at 14:40 for a 1-0 Florida lead.
San Diego's Taylor Bond answered back in the second quarter, finishing a hard-working run by Eduardo Velez. The veteran known as "El Vaquero" battled his way down the boards on the right wall and through the corner to the goal wall before tapping a pass back to Bond in the heart of the crease, who smashed home his fourth goal of the season at 10:18. The match was tied 1-1 at halftime.
The Sockers' Luis "Peewee" Ortega was shown a blue card in the final minute of the second quarter, giving Florida one minute of power play to start the second half. 27 seconds was all they would need to convert, as Perreiras got his big night started with a left-wing volley past Boris Pardo and into the net for his 13th of the season, and a 2-1 lead which would not be relinquished.
Less than three minutes later, Anthony Arico was played by his keeper into a breakaway up the middle of the field.
Pardo came out to challenge, and in doing so, his hand flicked the ball outside the crease for an automatic blue card and shootout. Perreiras was given the shootout attempt and made full work of it, using a right-to-left dribble to get past Pardo before slotting the ball home at 3:05 for a 3-1 lead.
Cesar Cerda answered back with a lateral run into the crease, fed in by Leonardo de Oliveira at 4:04, narrowing the gap to 3-2. What followed, however, was a five-goal run by the Tropics. With San Diego reverting to high pressure in an attempt to win the ball back, Florida instead dissected the strategy with side-to-side passes, creating outmanned rushes down the field.
Matt Clare finished two of those outmanned rushes on passes from Gordy Gurson, burning his former team with back-to-back scores at 8:54 and 12:07 of the third quarter. The Tropics led 5-2 after 45 minutes of play.
Gurson, Anthony Arico and Perreiras finished the run in the fourth quarter with goals at 2:00, 6:56 and 7:06, the third coming against a six-attackers formation. San Diego stayed with six attackers for the remainder of the game, and withdrew late dividends, as Hiram "Pollo" Ruiz, Cerda and Brandon Escoto netted goals at 10:39, 11:38 and 14:48 to adjust the final score.
In the end, the Sockers come home with a 2-2 week, and a 3-3 road trip through Harrisburg, Baltimore, Monterrey, Sonora, Orlando and Florida.
Coach Salvagio looked past the results after the match, focusing on his club and their direction.
"We are a tight family," said Salvagio of the week-long trip, "And, we're a good team. You learn a lot about guys when you are out on the road eight straight days."
San Diego comes home for the briefest of pit stops, hosting the Eastern Conference legacy franchise Baltimore Blast on Wednesday before heading back out for another three-match road trip through Ontario, Mesquite and Dallas. Tickets for the February 12 match against the Blast are available at sdsockers.com/tickets or by phone at (866) 799-GOAL.
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Major Arena Soccer League Stories from February 8, 2020
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