Sockers Use Fast Start to Push Past Mesquite 5-3
The San Diego Sockers netted three times in the opening two minutes, playing a clinical first half and hanging on from there for a 5-3 win over the Mesquite Outlaws. San Diego's eighth straight win (8-1) was hard-earned in the final thirty minutes, as the Sockers saw a 4-0 lead diminish to 4-3 before scoring a late empty-netter.
Hiram "Pollo" Ruiz and Kraig Chiles each had a goal and an assist after returning to the San Diego lineup, while Brian Farber contributed two assists. Jorge DeLeon, Bradlee Baladez and Mitchell Cardenas scored goals for Mesquite (4-6), who finished 1-1 on a weekend California road trip.
"We talked about NOT coming out complacent and casual in the second half, but we did anyway," said the Sockers captain Chiles about the change in match flow, "When you have a lead, the mindset sometimes changes and it's hard to get it back."
The Sockers welcomed "Pollo" back to the lineup in front of a crowd of 3,218, and saw their veteran midfielder pay immediate dividends. Off the opening kickoff, San Diego chipped the ball into the Mesquite offensive zone, where Ruiz fed Brandon Escoto at the right edge of the crease. Escoto's return pass to Ruiz led to a quick touch and a wicked shot into the upper netting, just 14 seconds into the action, good for a 1-0 lead.
Before the first goal could be celebrated, the Sockers had lit the red lamp once again. Streaking onto a loose ball at the top of the crease, Brian Farber wisely chose against a go at goal, instead bouncing the ball off the left goal wall to de Oliveira, who again found the upper 90 with a right-footed volley. It was 2-0 Sockers just 46 seconds into the contest.
Next, it was Kraig Chiles' turn to reinvigorate the offense. Off a loose ball turnover and a pass from Chiles to Ruiz, Pollo found his captain off left-wing unmarked. The wall pass hit its target and so did Chiles, matching Leo and Pollo exactly with a left-footed bomb into the identical spot, dead central in the upper goal netting, for his first goal in five matches. The Sockers' 3-0 lead at the 2:00 mark held through the end of the opening frame.
"The wins are most important, but scoring is my job on this team and it's nice to get back to it," said Chiles of ending his career-long four-match goalless drought.
While the road-weary Outlaws struggled to generate first-half offense, the Sockers chipped home another to build their lead out early in the second quarter. On a rush up the field with Escoto carrying the ball, Cerda accepted a pass off the bench and came streaking down the middle. He laid the ball off to Chiles, who ducked out of the crease and to the left wall for a 1-2 pass right back to Cerda at the top of the scoring area. Cerda took one touch for a left-footed finish and his third goal of the season, and San Diego enjoyed a 4-0 advantage 3:53 into the frame.
The Sockers would be shut out for the next 40:57 of game action, but took their 4-0 lead into the half behind the skillful goalkeeping of reserve net-minder Diego Arriaga. Stopping all five shots he faced, Arriaga contributed a clean sheet to the first half before being replaced by MASL Goalkeeper of the Year Boris Pardo to start the third quarter.
Off a top-of-the-arc set-piece, Cardenas' bid skittered the left goal wall, where Jorge DeLeon was standing unmarked. DeLeon got a piece of his leg on the rebound off the wall, directing in Mesquite's first goal just 54 seconds into the quarter.
Six minutes later exactly, the lead was chopped in half, as defender Emmanuel Aguirre was stripped by Bradlee Baladez on the right wall. Baladez was able to come in one-on-one against the keeper, scoring inside the right post for his fourth goal of the season at 6:54 of the third, making the score 4-2 Sockers.
With San Diego teasing the crossbar twice on Taylor Bond tries, one a wicked left-footed volley and the other a flying header, the Sockers were unable to turn on the red lamp while the Outlaws hung around. 5:07 into the fourth quarter, an extended possession in the San Diego defensive zone saw the Sockers three times try to clear, only to see their pass-outs intercepted. Cardenas finally turned a bouncing loose ball into a goal, firing into the left side netting to make the score 4-3.
Mesquite kept up the pressure and turned to six attackers with 3:07 left in the fourth, but couldn't find another shot against the San Diego defense. With time running down, Farber used a bicycle kick to keep the ball from exiting the field of play, then poked a hopper loose to Cerda, who clinically netted right-footed with just ten seconds remaining to establish the final score.
Despite the eighth straight win, Farber agreed the club has work to do when it comes to putting together a complete match.
"We haven't put together four straight quarters, for sure," Farber lamented, "I wish I knew why, I don't know. We're going to keep working at it, and it's still early in the season. It's good to have an 8-1 record but we know we need to do more."
San Diego will now embark on an extended six-match road trip. The Sockers will travel to Harrisburg and Baltimore next weekend for matches on Friday and Saturday. San Diego's next home match is Wednesday, February 12 against the Baltimore Blast, a 7:35pm kickoff. Tickets are available at SDSockers.com/tickets or by phone at (866) 799-GOAL.
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