Soccer action at Toyota Arena
Soccer action Friday night at Toyota Arena in Ontario. Photo by Gina Tenorio

On the road to the Ron Newman Cup Championship series, the San Diego Sockers have been winning thanks to the strong play of their defense.

Friday night, the Sockers figured if it wasn’t broken, they weren’t going to fix it.

San Diego blocked away 33 of the Ontario Fury’s 36 shots as the Sockers’ offense scored the first three goals of the game, then bunkered down for a 7-3 win at Ontario’s Toyota Arena in Game 1 of the best-of-three series.

Starting goalkeeper Boris Pardo had 10 saves, before being forced from the game in the fourth quarter due to injury. William Vanzela came in and made two saves to close out the win. But it was the play in front of the goalkeepers that frustrated the Fury throughout the night. The Sockers blocked 21 shots on the night.

Leading the way for the Sockers was Christian Gutierrez. The midfielder, who scored two overtime game-winning goals in San Diego’s first-round series win over Tacoma, stepped in front of five Ontario shots. But he didn’t just do it on the defensive end Friday. He tallied a pair of second half goals, scoring short-handed in the third quarter, then sliding the ball into the Fury’s vacated net with 20 seconds remaining to close out the game.

San Diego’s offense struck early to put the Fury on their heels. Captain Kraig Chiles opened the scoring 2:44 into the game, as he slid a shot past Ontario goalkeeper Claysson de Lima into the far post from a sharp angle. Three minutes later, Brandon Escoto chipped a pass from Tavoy Morgan over a sliding de Lima to make it 2-0. Them Hiram Ruiz took advantage of a turnover and blasted a shot into the upper corner to make it 3-0 after one period.

Ontario finally got on the board in the second. Defender Thiago Goncalves fired a shot past Pardo to make it 3-1. But the Sockers took back the momentum before the half, as Guerrero Pino headed home a give-and-go with Morgan with 1:14 left in the half.

San Diego widened its lead early in the third quarter, with Leonardo de Oliveira cracking a shot past de Lima to make it 5-1.

Franck Tayou scored twice for the Fury, who got a goal and assist from Goncalves.

The two teams will play Game 2 of the series at 3 p.m. Sunday at Toyota Arena, and can be viewed on Facebook Live through the Major Arena Soccer League’s Facebook page. If the Fury win Sunday’s Game 2, the two teams will play a 15-minute mini-game to determine the winner.