MASL professional soccer
The Sockers winning ways continued Saturday despite the team facing a number of injuries. Photo credit:

Thanks to a hat trick from a fourth-string forward, the San Diego Sockers beat the Baltimore Blast 8-6 Saturday in front of a sellout crowd at Towson University’s SECU Arena.

The Sockers (20-0-1, 57 points) won their 17th straight match, finishing a 2-0 series sweep in Baltimore while improving to 11-0 on the road.

Tavoy Morgan netted two early goals to pace the San Diego attack, while Ibrahima “Kalou” Keita scored a hat trick for the Blast. Boris Pardo stopped 16 of 22 shots for his league-leading 16th win in net.

But the unlikely top performer for the Sockers was Eduardo “El Vaquero” Velez.

With the team beset by injuries, the forward found himself called upon and he answered, as his third goal of the match gave San Diego a 6-5 lead 4:37 into the fourth quarter.

Charlie Gonzalez followed at 5:13 with a long shot from midfield off a Brandon Escoto steal, putting the Sockers ahead for good. Escoto’s goal into the empty net with 35 seconds left locked in the final score.

Velez’s first goal of the year came on an entry pass from Leonardo de Oliveira, who slotted a ball down the middle from the yellow line to mid-crease, where Velez was able to rifle a shot under the crossbar at 5:44, for a 2-1 lead. 

The Sockers led 3-2 after fifteen minutes of play, then took a 4-3 lead into halftime.

After the Blast tied the game, the Sockers jumped ahead on Velez’s second score, coming off a midfield turnover. Velez took one touch before he sent a rocket into the left side of the net, for a 5-4 lead at 9:40. 

The Sockers suffered a scare with just over three minutes remaining in the third quarter, as Escoto pursued a loose ball down the floor and Baltimore’s Mike Deasel dove into his legs. Escoto was helped to the bench, but was able to return in the fourth quarter. 

The Sockers move on to Harrisburg, Penn. for a 2:05 p.m. Sunday matchup with the Harrisburg Heat (3-18, 9 points) at the Farm Show Arena, as they conclude their MASL road schedule.