Strykers Fall 4-8 at San Diego

by Gunnar Berndt

Gueye’s two assists not enough as Sockers trio shines

San Diego, Calif. — The Empire Strykers fell 4-8 to hosts San Diego Sockers on Friday evening, dropping to 3-14-1 (wins-losses-overtime/shootout losses) on their Major Arena Soccer League (MASL) campaign. San Diego, which added to its dominant lead atop the Western Conference, got four-points performances from Felipe Gonzalez and Brandon Escoto as well as a three-point performance from Tavoy Morgan. While Empire defender Momo Gueye earned two assists, Mexican star Marco Fabián scored in his 15th straight match since arriving in the MASL three months ago, bagging a brace against the Sockers.

The opening stages of the first quarter saw a pair of goals that shared a remarkable resemblance. First, San Diego’s Escoto broke through on the left and tried to pick out Morgan in the center, where Strykers midfielder Quenton Swift stuck a foot in and inadvertently sent the ball into his own net. Then, Kraig Chiles fell victim to a similar situation at the other end. Former Sockers man Gerardo Jurado streaked down the left and saw his pass into the box intercepted and touched over the line by veteran Chiles for the leveler. Notably, the visitors’ tally came on an opposition power play.

San Diego subsequently used its man advantage to jump back on top at 2-1, Felipe Gonzalez finding Chiles and the veteran forward volleying the ball inside the right post from close range. The home side would make it 3-1 before the end of the period, as Escoto faked out Empire’s Bryce Watson on the right before picking out Chiles, who bagged his second of the match with a simple finish.

Morgan could have extended the Sockers’ lead to three in the second quarter. On another power play, Empire ‘keeper Brian Orozco did a fantastic jop of coming off his line to deny a Morgan header from point-blank range. Right at the conclusion of the same power play, the Strykers’ Jurado should have cut his team’s deficit in half. Entirely by himself on a breakaway, the 27-year-old rifled his attempted finish off the post. It might have been a moment of poetic justice, as Jurado had only just returned to the field after serving a penalty for an elbow to the head of Morgan.

Empire did get to within one when Momo Gueye released Fabián down the left on a counterattack and the 34-year-old tried to find Adam James at the doorstep, his pass being deflected into the goal by ex-Empire ace Charlie Gonzalez. However, the Sockers re-established their previous cushion not long thereafter, as Cesar Cerda made it 4-2 on a helper by Christian Gutierrez. Strykers star Fabián then completed his brace, capitalizing on a defensive miscue to blast the ball off the underside of the crossbar for the final tally of the first half.

James nearly pulled another one back for the Strykers, but his short-range effort was jointly kept out by Cerda and backstop Boris Pardo.

San Diego made it 5-3 within one minute after intermission. Guerrero Pino found Morgan facing away from goal and the 29-year-old sent a beautiful one-touch layoff into the path of Cerda, who calmly slotted inside the right post. Felipe Gonzalez came within inches of adding another one for the hosts, but his hard right-footed toe-poke rattled the bar and bounced back into play. The Sockers’ Escoto displayed perfect aim moments later, making it 6-3 from Morgan.

Then followed the Strykers’ final tally of the night. Gueye sent a pass into James, who found himself with his back to goal. The defender stunned his marker with a quick turn and a low, right-footed drive inside the left upright. San Diego would round out the final score with two more goals before the end of the period. After Escoto picked out Felipe Gonzalez with a headed helper off the boards above the frame, Gonzalez completed his hat-trick and made it 8-4 with a long-range rocket from the right. Empire’s James was unlucky to see his subsequent side-volley bounce off the bar.

While the Strykers gave it their all in the game’s closing quarter, they couldn’t manage much in the way of close looks, with the home side holding on for a well-deserved three points.

The Empire Strykers return to Ontario’s Toyota Arena for a clash with defending champion Chihuahua Savage on Tuesday, March 5. Tickets are available here.