Sockers advance to championship match
The Professional Arena Soccer League North American Championship semi-finals concluded on Friday with a 6-5 victory by the Sockers over the Sidekicks of Estado De Mexico.
The victory came after a game-winning goal by Miguel “Chiky” Luna with 19 seconds left in the game.
San Diego’s victory came despite trailing 4-3 at halftime. The game then seemed to be in hand for the Sockers after leading 5-4 with less than a minute to play. The visitors tied the game with 45 seconds left, but were caught flat-footed on a breakaway.
A contested foul called by one of the referees gave the Sockers the set play the needed to score the game-winner.
After the game, security was called to the field to separate both teams a fight broke out. They also escorted the referees off the field.
During the melee, players for the Sidekicks had to be called back to the field after threatening to leave the game in protest before the final whistle.
The Sockers will now play La Raza de Guadalajara who surprised the defending champion Champion California Cougars 7-5 in the first semifinal. The championship match is at 6:15 p.m. Saturday at the Del Mar Arena.
Per league rules the team that finishes with the best regular season record has the rights to host the following year’s finals. Since the Sockers finished this season with the best record, they’re guaranteed to host the playoffs again next year.
San Diego accepted the opportunity to host the finals at the 3,500-seat Del Mar Arena where the Sockers are enjoying the league’s best attendance in their first year in the league.
“We’re proud to host the North American Championship in our first year,” said Sockers General Manager and Head Coach Phil Salvagio. “Everyone knows the Sockers are 10-time champions and now we will have a chance to go for number 11 in front of our great fans.”
This will be the second straight year that the finals have been played in California.
The Sockers wrapped up the Western Division Title and earned a first-round bye for the playoffs after impressive victories over Revolucion Tijuana and the Edmonton Drillers at home on Feb. 26 and 27.
Joining the three PASL-Pro teams are the eventual Canadian Major Indoor Soccer League champion, and La Raza de Guadelajara and Sidekicks del Estado de Mexico of the Liga Mexicana de Futbol Rapido.
Teams will be seeded by winning percentage with the top two seeds automatically advancing to the Semifinals of the single elimination event.
In the PASL-Pro’s inaugural season last year, the California Cougars beat the 1790 Cincinnati Express 13-5 to capture the first North American Championship at Stockton Arena.
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— Hector Trujillo