Strykers Fall 10-5 to Texas in Another Second-Half Collapse

by Gunnar Berndt

Ortiz, Morales Shine in Comprehensive Outlaws Win  

Click here for the box score and match facts.

Ontario, Calif. — The Empire Strykers fell victim to yet another second-half collapse on Tuesday evening, conceding five consecutive goals and suffering a 10-5 defeat at the hands of the visiting Texas Outlaws, whose impressive attack was led by David Ortiz and Luiz Morales. While Ortiz celebrated a hat-trick and added an assist, Morales recorded two goals and one helper. The disappointing result at Ontario’s Toyota Arena sees Empire drop to 2-6-0 (wins-losses-overtime/shootout losses) on the season.

The Strykers drew first blood early in the opening quarter. With Israel Sesay having forced a strong kick-save from Texas netminder Eduardo “Pollo” Cortes, Stefan Mijatovic was quickest to the rebound and smashed the ball into the far-side upper corner to make it 1-0. The visitors weren’t behind for long, as Ortiz leveled things after breaking into the area courtesy of an impressive solo run. Ex-Empire man Uzi Tayou then put the Outlaws on top, and Strykers ‘keeper Brandon Gomez prevented a third by way of an excellent foot-save against Lucas Ramalho. Texas did go up 1-3 when Ortiz bagged his second of the match.

History was made in the second period, which saw the maiden goal created by Empire’s new Guadalajara and El Tri connection. Marco Fabián fired home while fellow Chivas legend and FIFA World Cup veteran Miguel Ponce collected the assist off the boards for his first ever point in his MASL debut. Visibly energized, the hosts kept pressing and were rewarded when Alan Perez set up Justin Stinson for the equalizer. However, the Outlaws struck back almost immediately, Morales pouncing on a mistimed Sesay header to make it 3-4. Mendez subsequently doubled Texas’ cushion on an Erik Macias helper.

Despite the pair of setbacks, the Strykers refused to give in and got back to within one before the end of the half, ex-Portland Timbers 2 man Harold Hanson grabbing his first goal in pro indoor soccer and Fabián adding his seventh assist of the campaign. The Outlaws very nearly re-established their previous advantage, but Morales’ bullet from the left bounced off the underside of the crossbar.

Returning from the locker rooms, both sides seemed acutely aware of the importance of the game’s next tally. It ultimately fell to the away side, Jorge Deleon rifling a low shot into the bottom lefthand corner from long range. The wicked drive seemed to break the spirits of the Empire players, who would give up three more before the end of the quarter to find themselves down 4-8.

After Morales scored courtesy of a Momo Gueye spill near the top of the area, Macias received the ball from Ortiz on the right and blasted it inside the near post for the final strike of the period. Mijatovic was unlucky not to pull one back for Empire, as he received the ball with his back to the goal and did well to turn and shoot, only to see his powerful attempt rattle the crossbar.

The visitors would seal the deal once and for all in the closing quarter. After Morales came close to making it 4-9 by forcing a one-handed diving parry from Gomez, Emmanuel Aguirre did beat the Strykers ‘keeper on a helper from Deleon. Things went from bad to worse for the hosts when they opted for a sixth attacker and conceded for a tenth time, Tayou finding Ortiz and the Texas midfielder converting into the open net. Empire subsequently pulled on back, as Alan Perez found the back of the net from Mijatovic to make it 5-10. It would be too little too late, as the Outlaws held on for a comprehensive win.

The Strykers will look to bounce back when they host the Tacoma Stars on Sunday, January 14. Tickets are available here.