Strykers Fall 8-5 to Sockers as Late Rally Falls Short

by Gunnar Berndt

San Diego win powered by dominant third-quarter performance

Ontario, Calif. — The Empire Strykers suffered an 8-5 defeat to visiting rival San Diego Sockers on Wednesday evening, courtesy of another subpar third-quarter performance as well as standout attacking shifts from the Sockers’ Tavoy Morgan and Brandon Escoto. The home side showed signs of life in the game’s closing period, scoring four unanswered goals in quick succession, but ultimately ran out of time in its efforts to complete the comeback. With the loss, Empire drops to 2-8-0 on its Major Arena Soccer League (MASL) campaign.

The Sockers wasted no time in drawing first blood. With several Strykers defenders backing up, ex-Empire ace Gabriel Costa took full advantage of the time and space, firing a rocket into the net from long range. Drew Ruggle recorded the assist on the play. It would remain the only tally of a fiercely contested opening quarter.

The hosts had a golden chance to level things in the second period, as Momo Gueye found himself in on goal courtesy of a clever give-and-go with Mo Alewine. San Diego backstop Pavel Pardo did an outstanding job of rushing off his line and cutting down the angle to prevent the equalizer. Marco Fabián subsequently had an even better chance, but his attempt with Pardo off the line was deflected wide by Sockers defender Mitchell Cardenas on the goal line. Empire did make it 1-1 when Stefan Mijatovic was taken down by ‘keeper Pardo and fired home the resulting penalty kick.

Seemingly unfazed by the opposition tally, San Diego jumped back on top before the halftime whistle, Juan Gonzalez converting on a helper by Juan Salazar.

The visitors doubled their advantage shortly after intermission, Cardenas providing a beautiful chipped assist off the boards and Morgan making it 1-3. The Sockers’ fourth came not long thereafter in the form of a Brandon Escoto cannon from way outside the area. Morgan collected the assist on the play. Costa then bagged his second of the night for a 1-5 scoreline, with Morgan making it back-to-back helpers. Despite the four-goal cushion, San Diego kept up the intensity and reaped the reward when another former Stryker, Charlie Gonzalez, found the net after being set up by Escoto.

The Sockers added one more before the conclusion of the third quarter, indoor legend Kraig Chiles laying the ball off on a free-kick and Ruggles adding a goal to his assist to make it 1-7.

The game’s final period featured what will surely be counted among the MASL goals of the season. A defensive miscue saw Empire netminder Gomez off his line, and Escoto found the open net via an ambitious bicycle kick from well outside the area.

The home side finally showed a response to the memorable strike, scoring three times within the span of exactly one minute. Having picked out Fabián for Empire’s second of the night, Alan Perez immediately bagged his second helper on a Gueye tally, the pair benefiting from a two-man attacking advantage that resulted from a power play situation and the Strykers fielding a sixth attacker. Back to even numbers, Strykers midfielder Bryce Watson then found the net on a Harold Hanson assist for his first ever indoor goal and point. Mijatovic scored another one for Empire to round out the final score at 5-8.

The Empire Strykers will hit the road for a January 25 clash with the Tacoma Stars. Head Coach Paul Wright’s men then return home for a meeting with the St. Louis Ambush on January 28. Tickets for the matchup at Ontario’s Toyota Arena are available here.