Strykers Fall 7-3 at San Diego
Stinson brace, Fabián tally not enough as defensive mistakes prove costly
San Diego, Calif. — The Empire Strykers dropped to 1-4 on their Major Arena Soccer League (MASL) campaign on Sunday evening, courtesy of a 7-3 loss to host and long-time rival San Diego Sockers. While Justin Stinson bagged a brace for the Strykers and his teammate and former Mexican international Marco Fabián scored a goal of his own, Head Coach Paul Wright had to accept defeat to the club with which he earned legendary status as a player. San Diego emerged victorious thanks to a comprehensive team performance, five different players each recording a pair of attacking points in the game.
The home side had most of the momentum in the opening quarter, coming close to creating clear looks on several occasions. San Diego did eventually test Brian Gomez with some dangerous attempts, the Strykers netminder proving up to the task each time. The 27-year-old’s best save up to that point was a stunning reflex parry to keep out a close-range rocket by Charlie Gonzalez, which was followed almost immediately by a Brandon Escoto hit off the inside of Gomez’ right post.
The Sockers continued to press in the game’s second period, and they finally claimed the lead by way of a penalty shot conversion from Kraig Chiles. Defender Stefan Mijatovic had been righly called for a handball as he slid in to deflect a long-range drive by Gabriel Costa on a San Diego power play. Back to even numbers, another Costa hit seemed destined for the back of the net until it was palmed over in spectacular fashion by airborne Strykers shot-stopper Gomez.
The Sockers would triple their advantage before the end of the quarter. First, Cesar Cerda rifled an unstoppable blast inside the right post after a perfect Gonzalez pass across the box from the left. Then Chiles completed his brace by finishing from a tight angle on an assist by Leonardo De Oliveira.
With the hosts up 3-0 at the break, the Strykers responded with their first tally early in the third period, Stinson releasing a wicked drive that seemed to knuckle before finding its way under the crossbar. However, the opposition quickly reestablished its previous advantage, Oliveira producing an equally impressive finish when his low shot on a clever restart by Tavoy Morgan whistled across the face of goal and found the net via the left upright.
Strykers star Fabián subsequently made his presence felt. After drawing the foul that led to a Sockers blue card, the Guadalajara native fired home a right-footed attempt on the power play to cut his side’s deficit to 2-4.
Energized by the tally, the visitors nearly added another, Jurado lobbing the ball across the area on a restart and Stinson beating ‘keeper Pavel Pardo with a low first-time shot, only to see the ball cleared off the line by Gonzalez. Empire did cut its deficit the 3-4 when Alan Perez set up Stinson on a breakaway, followed by a quick Sockers response at the other end, Morgan picking out Gonzalez and the 26-year-old roofing his tight-angle finish from the left. Things then went from bad to worse for the Strykers, as they conceded on their own power play, Christian Gutierrez finding Cerda on a breakaway for a 6-3 San Diego lead.
Costa scored from Escoto in the final quarter of the match to extend the Sockers advantage to four, followed by a golden chance for Strykers forward Abdul Mansaray, who showed lightning speed as he streaked down the field before being stifled on-on-one by netminder Pardo. The visitors were very nearly punished for the squandered chance when San Diego’s Gonzalez rattled the frame of the goal with a hit off the underside of the bar. It ultimately mattered little, as Gonzalez and company bagged all three points courtesy of the 7-3 final score.
The Empire Strykers will have some time to regroup and iron out their mistakes, as Head Coach Wright’s men don’t return to the turf until their December 28 home game against the Tacoma Stars. Tickets for the crucial clash at Ontario’s Toyota Arena are available here.