Sockers, MASL Champions for 2 Straight Years, Open New Season with 8-5 Win

MASL Pechanga Arena
MASL Pechanga Arena
Tavoy Morgan, a standout for the Sockers last season, picked up where he left off, scoring three goals in the team’s season-opening victory. Here he is in an April playoff win. Photo credit: @sandiegosockers, via Twitter

The defending champion San Diego Sockers opened the 2022-23 MASL season on the road at Toyota Arena in Ontario Saturday, winning 8-5 over the rechristened Empire Strykers.

Tavoy Morgan led the way with three goals in the match with the team once known as the Fury.

The clubs began a home-and-home back-to-back series Saturday and will meet at Pechanga Arena at 5 p.m. Sunday for the Sockers’ home opener. A ring ceremony and championship banner drop precede the game at 4:45 p.m.

The Sockers and Strykers will meet six times during the regular season. Last
year’s edition of the Strykers were the only club to hand San Diego a regular-season loss, rallying from a halftime deficit to edge the Sockers 8-7 in overtime Jan. 9 at Pechanga.

San Diego is 26-8 all-time playing Ontario, including a 2-1 series win in the 2021 Ron Newman Cup Finals.

Last year, the Sockers tied their own MASL single-season wins record with a 23-0-1 mark, then went 6-0-1 in the playoffs en route to a second straight Ron Newman Cup.

Along the way, forward Morgan was named to the MASL Elite VI, Leonardo de Oliveira won MASL Pass Master, Boris Pardo claimed Goalkeeper of the Year, and the club lifted the first-ever MASL Shield honoring the regular season points champion.

The Sockers have not lost a match in regulation since a 6-4 loss in Ontario on March 13, 2021, a stretch of 41 matches (postseason included).

In pursuit of another championship campaign, the Sockers return their roster essentially intact from 2021-22. The forward triumvirate of Morgan, Christian Gutierrez and Kraig Chiles combined for 80 goals and 32 assists (112 points) last season.

A deep midfield led by Brandon Escoto (21 goals, 23 assists) and de Oliveira will be joined by versatile two-way star Hiram “Pollo” Ruiz for the full season, after being restricted in his usage last year due to visa issues.

Mitchell Cardenas, Guerrero Pino, Cesar Cerda and Juan-Manuel Rojo make up the defensive backfield. Pardo and Xavier Snaer-Williams return as keepers.

The Strykers (0-1) lost to Tacoma 7-5 in their Dec. 1 season opener, but welcome back star striker Franck Tayou this weekend, after Tayou took a one-match suspension for penalty points accumulation in the 2021-22 regular season.

Dating back to last season, the Fury/Strykers have lost 10 straight MASL matches. Head coach Jimmy Nordberg’s team has been bolstered by the free agent signing of forward Mo Ndiaye from St. Louis, but the club lost high-scoring winger Jorge DeLeon to the Mesquite Outlaws.

Prior to this weekend’s matches, the Strykers announced the signing of Ádrian Perez, formerly of LAFC and DC United of MLS.

After Sunday’s match, the Sockers play again at home Dec. 18, welcoming the Outlaws.