By Hector Trujillo
The San Diego Sockers started the 2009-10 season off on the right foot with a 9-5 victory over the Stars of Mexico in front of a packed crowd at the Del Mar Arena on Saturday.
The game, which was marred by hard fouls throughout the second half, was concluded with two minutes left due to an injury to Stars' player Guadelupe Castaneda, who left the field on a stretcher. He was reported on Monday to have sustained a neck contusion but was in good condition.
"It was definitely good to get a win in front of our home fans," said Sockers forward Kraig Chiles. "There were a lot of blue cards and a lot of fouls so it was hard to get a rhythm and that was frustrating, but it is always good to get a win."
Chiles, a former standout player at San Diego State University and Chivas USA of the Major League Soccer, scored with 6:14 left in the second quarter, giving the Sockers a 4-1 lead.
The Sockers then gave up two goals in a span of less than three minutes to cut their lead at the half to 4-3. The Sockers regained the momentum early in the second half thanks to a goal by forward Anthony Medina.
But the Mexican team fired back, scoring back-to-back goals to tie the game midway through the third quarter at 5-5 and it seemed the Sockers were on the ropes.
"We made some adjustments at halftime and felt that we had gotten our second wind," said Stars midfielder Jose Armando Teran. "We felt the energy from some of the fans who were rooting for us and fed off that. Unfortunately, we could not keep up the pace in the second half."
The Sockers regained the lead with 36 seconds left in the quarter on a goal by forward Paul Wright. It was a lead the team would never relinquish as the match turned physical.
After the Sockers extended their lead with 14:05 left when right-footed midfielder Ze Roberto fired a cannon shot, the Mexican team started committing what seemed to be frustration fouls the remainder of the game.
Things came to a climax when Stars player and Mexican national team legend Luis "El Matador" Hernandez was ejected for pushing a referee after being called for a foul and apparently kicking Medina. It is yet unclear whether Hernandez will face suspension or be fined for his actions.
The Sockers then gained a strong advantage with goals by defender Dan Antoniuk and Miguel "Chiky" Luna — his second of the game — to put it away.
"We played with a lot of passion," said head coach and general manager Phil Salvagio. "The crowd was fantastic and it was an exciting atmosphere."
The Sockers go on the road for their next two games, which will be Saturday against Denver Dynamite and Sunday against the Texas Outlaws. Their next home game is Friday, Nov. 20, against the Stockton Cougars.