Sockers start season with 4-game winning streak

The San Diego Sockers extended their winning streak to four games after they defeated the California Cougars, 5-4, before a home crowd this past Friday night then turned around to defeat the Las Vegas Knights 15-2 on Saturday night.

On Friday night, the Sockers (4-0) welcomed the Professional Arena Soccer League championship Cougars to their first away game with a Paul Wright to Kraig Chiles finish in the second quarter. Before the home crowd could celebrate the opening goal after a scoreless first quarter, the Cougars responded with a goal of their own. Pedro Lupercio's pass to the far back post found Vicente Figueroa for a California equalizer.

Feeding off the energy of his Cougar teammates, David Vedder charged up the field to blast in a shot and give California their first lead of the night. But the Cougars wouldn't settle for a one-point lead as Brian Farber delivered a cross to Majell Aterado to put California up 3-1 at the half.

With an eager home crowd awaiting a spark from the Sockers, things didn't seem to get any better when three minutes into the third quarter Craig Scheer chipped the ball over goalkeeper Riley Swift's head for a 4-1 lead. The remainder of the third quarter the Sockers saw opportunities on goal, but couldn't find the back of the net.

Anthony Medina revitalized spectators at the Del Mar Arena as he skied for a header 15 seconds into the fourth quarter. Just over a minute later, Aaron Susi, a former Cougar, struck a pass from Wright to narrow the score 4-3. Socker's fans remained on their feet as Chiles danced around Cougar defenders to fire a shot from the top of the circle to tie the game 4-4 and send the match into overtime.

In the 6th minute of overtime, Chiles saw another opportunity to finish with a pass from Ze Roberto, but put too much power on his shot as he sent it well over the goal. The kick seemed just a warm up for Chiles as he converted his next opportunity—Wright pushed the ball up the field after a steal—to earn a hat trick and end the match.

"I messed up earlier when I shanked that one over the top," Chiles said. "It was redemption that I got the ball set up again and I loved it."

A close game between the two teams saw a physical match as a collision between Susi and California goalkeeper Jesus Molina in the second period sent both players down hard. Despite the impact, both Susi and Molina walked off any injury. Twelve minutes into the third quarter, Vedder slammed into the sidewall as he fought for the ball against Socker defender Roberto. Vedder managed to walk off the field.

"We were fighting and battling in the first half," Coach Phil Salvagio said. "Once the boys started playing and scoring goals, we showed some heart out there."

Saturday night win

San Diego's Scott Martin opened the match with the first goal in the fourth minute of the first quarter. Six minutes later Anthony Medina capitalized on Vegas goalkeeper Ezequiel Sanchez's run to the top of the circle as Medina chipped the ball over and into the goal.

The Sockers carried that energy into the next fifteen minutes as Paul Wright set the mood for the second quarter after dribbling from the kickoff to blast a shot though Sanchez. The Sockers then ran with a goal spree to finish the half 7-0 and carry their lead until the final whistle in the fourth quarter.

Brian O'Connor, Eric Wunderle, Aaron Susi, Garth Archibald and Nate Hetherington finished with a goal each for the night. Chiky Luna wrapped up the night with back-to-back goals, while both Kraig Chiles and Anthony Medina earned a hat trick. Itzik Rapaport put two on the board for Vegas with a minute left in the third quarter and two minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Vegas suffered an injury in the second quarter after Chiles slammed a shot into Mitchell Jenkins' ear. Mitchell never returned to the match. Ze Roberto was ejected from the match after knocking Rapaport to the ground with a knee to the back with nine minutes left in the third.

The Sockers will next face the Denver Dynamite at home, Dec. 5, at 6:15 p.m.

— Vanessa Silvas, courtesy San Diego Sockers

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