Strykers Lose 5-11 to Sockers Despite Fabián, Hanson Magic

by Gunnar Berndt

Chiles, Charlie Gonzalez power ruthless San Diego in front of 5,013

WATCH: Harold Hanson postgame comments
WATCH: Marco Fabián postgame comments (English& Spanish)
(Please excuse microphone issues.)

Ontario, Calif. — Playing in front of 5,013, the Empire Strykers fell 5-11 to the visiting San Diego Sockers in a wild Major Arena Soccer League (MASL) game on Sunday, dropping to 3-17-1 on the season. While Empire star Marco Fabián had a hat-trick and his teammate Harold Hanson celebrated a breakout match, recording three points of his own, the duo was bested on the day by four-point shifts from the Sockers’ Charlie Gonzalez and Kraig Chiles. With Empire having shown promise before the break, the wheels came off for Head Coach Paul Wright’s men during the second half, in which they were outscored 2-6.

A total of four visiting attackers finished the contest with three points each.

San Diego started on the front foot, former Stryker Charlie Gonzalez forcing ‘keeper Brian Orozco to tip the ball over the bar courtesy of a wicked drive from just outside the area. The Sockers did open the scoring not long thereafter, another ex-Empire ace, Gabriel Costa, scoring in his first game back from injury. Brandon Escoto bagged the assist on the play. The away team's lead wouldn't stand for long, as Fabián was credited with a tally on a shot from the left that was inadvertently touched into the net by sliding San Diego defender-midfielder Felipe Gonzalez.

The Sockers reclaimed the advantage when Charlie Gonzalez converted a helper from Chiles on a power play, followed by a Cesar Cerda goal on an assist by Flavio Guzman to extend San Diego’s cushion to 1-3. Charlie Gonzalez then got credit for his side’s fourth, the 30-year-old’s shot going wide until scrambling Empire captain Israel Sesay deflected it into his own net.

Inside the second quarter, Fabián proved that his left leg is for more than just standing. First, the two-time FIFA World Cup veteran scored on a give-and-go with forward Hanson, the ball popping into the air off Hanson and into the path of Fabián, who fired a gorgeous volley into the upper right-hand corner from the left. Then, the Strykers attacking standout bagged another with his weaker foot from a similar position, Mo Alewine this time laying the ball off and Fabián’s wicked drive shaking the lower netting inside the right post for a 3-4 scoreline.

After Tavoy Morgan reestablished the previous Sockers advantage on a helper by Chiles, Alan Perez was denied one on one by San Diego netminder Pardo, and Strykers ‘keeper Orozco produced a stunning kick-save on a low Morgan drive from point-blank range. While both stops were plenty impressive, they were bested by a last-ditch goal-line block from attacker Fabián. With all Empire players in the opposition half on a power play, the conclusion of the man advantage saw Escoto surprise everyone and sprint in all by himself. The midfielder did well to dribble around ‘keeper Orozco, only to be stunned by the defensive heroics of Fabián, who had sprinted back to keep out the attempted finish with his chest.

Strykers rookie Hanson scored one of the best tallies of the MASL season shortly after intermission. Having been denied one on one by ‘keeper Pardo, Hanson watched the ball pop into the air with his back to the goal on the right and opted for a spectacular bicycle kick, burying his effort underneath the bar from a tight angle. Although the hosts were visibly energized by the memorable moment, San Diego would weather the storm and proceeded to pull away during the remainder of the third period.

Empire’s Sesay found his own net for a second time as he attempted to intercept a Chiles attempt, making it 4-6. Shortly thereafter, Costa’s beautiful through-ball from the left found Morgan at the doorstep for the Sockers’ seventh, followed by an excellent tip over the frame by San Diego backstop Pardo to deny a powerful shot from the top of the box by Mo Alewine. Empire netminder Orozco then provided more evidence of his own quality, coming up with an outstanding double-save to keep out close-range shots by Felipe Gonzalez and Escoto.

The Sockers made it 4-8 before the end of the quarter, Charlie Gonzalez picking out Escoto on the right and the midfielder producing a top-notch finish from a tight angle, opening up his hips and curling the ball across the goal and into the upper ninety.

In the closing period, San Diego's Cerda made it 4-9 on a Chiles assist, and Hanson picked out Momo Gueye to pull one back for the Strykers. However, the visitors quickly bagged another to put the match out of reach, as Escoto set up Costa's 5-10 netter, followed by a goal-line clearance from Mitchell Cardenas to deny a low Fabián drive from the right. After Morgan scored from Charlie Gonzalez to round out the final score at 5-11, Gueye nearly had a brace when his last-second bullet from the right smashed off the corner of the left upright.

The Empire Strykers look to snap a nine-game losing streak in Tuesday’s away clash with the Chihuahua Savage. Head Coach Paul Wright’s men play their final home game of the 2023-24 campaign against the Tacoma Stars on Sunday, March 31, with tickets available here.