MASL Pechanga Arena
Christian Gutierrez, who scored a goal in the Sockers’ 7-6 loss to Chihuahua. Photo credit:

The San Diego Sockers find themselves in an unusual and uncomfortable place as their semifinal clash against the Chihuahua Savage continues at 5:05 p.m. Sunday.

Down 1-0 in the series, they now must beat the Savage twice in the same night, first in Game Two, then in the subsequent 15-minute match, both at Pechanga Arena. If they fail, their drive to repeat and defend their 2021 championship ends.

“We feel good about the second leg. We are down but we are definitely not out and we’re ready to put up a big fight back home,” Sockers captain Kraig Chiles said.

Chihuahua (15-7-2), meanwhile, could enjoy an appearance in the finals of the Ron Newman Cup championship in the club’s first season of MASL play. 

That’s because the Savage snapped San Diego’s 22-match winning streak Monday to gain the advantage in the series, before a sellout crowd at Corner Sport Arena in Chihuahua.

In the 7-6 Savage victory, the Sockers (23-0-1) barely forced the game to overtime, after Chihuahua’s Adrian Miller scored his second goal of the match at 10:09 of the fourth quarter to give the Savage the lead.

But with 14 seconds remaining, the short-handed Sockers saw Chiles slam home his second goal of the night to tie the score at 6-6.

Yet the relief was short-lived. Just 36 seconds into overtime, the Savage’s Edgar “Torrez” Gonzalez curved in his second goal of the match to give Chihuahua a 7-6 victory, their first win this season in five tries against San Diego. 

Injuries, in part, hampered the Sockers again. The team played without their top three scoring midfielders, as Leonardo de Oliveira and Brandon Escoto both contended with lower-body injuries, while Charlie Gonzalez had visa issues. In addition, they mostly played without top sub Hiram “Pollo” Ruiz, who turned an ankle in pregame. 

Chihuahua struck first at 14:11 of the first quarter, but Ismael Rojo – unable to play for the Sockers in the U.S. due to visa issues – answered. Making his first appearance this year in the semifinal, he posted his first Sockers goal on a restart at 2:03 of the second quarter for a 1-1 tie.

The match featured seven lead changes, and the Sockers were on top twice, thanks to Tavoy Morgan and Christian Gutierrez.

Morgan gave his team a 3-2 advantage at 5:24 of the second. Just a minute later though, at 6:23, Chihuahua tied it up again.

The third frame wound up scoreless, but thanks to a penalty, Gutierrez scored 24 seconds into the fourth quarter for a 4-3 Sockers lead. 

But Carlos “Poper” Hernandez, the Savage’s powerful shooting defender, netted goals eighteen seconds apart at 4:02 and 4:20 to give Chihuahua a 5-4 advantage, and San Diego never led again.

Tickets remain for Sunday’s match, starting at $20.