In what was perhaps the biggest trade in MASL history, the San Diego Sockers sent disgruntled goalkeeper Chris Toth and Andrew Lorei to the Ontario Fury for star playmaker Leonardo De Oliveira and Juan Gonzalez.
Toth is the two-time reigning MASL Goalkeeper of the Year, but he split time with Boris Pardo, and their numbers last year were nearly indistinguishable so, barring an injury, the Sockers should feel little effect on the field. Pardo was brought in originally, in part, because Toth missed so many games playing for the US National Beach Soccer Team.
Ontario, however, will benefit handsomely in the nets with the addition of Toth. After not re-signing Joey Kapinos, the Fury went into last season with untested rookie Jose Miranda with mixed results. Late in the season the team turned to 20-year old Claysson De Lima, who went 3-3 to finish out the season.
De Oliveira, to whom I’ve made risky comparisons to Stan Stamenkovic, both for his body type and dribbling ability, has flirted with superstar status, but has yet to make an MVP-type impact in his three MASL seasons.
The other two players in the trade are mostly complementary. Gonzalez, the twin brother of Felipe Gonzalez, who was on the Sockers the last two years but is currently a free agent, is a bit of a journeyman, who played in a career high 20 games last year. Lorei is a three-year veteran who saw limited action last year in his first indoor season since 2011-12. He should have a chance to make a bigger contribution on the Fury. Lorei spent most of the season with Sockers 2, finishing fourth in M2 with 19 goals.
The Sockers goalkeeping tandem last year created all kinds of second-guessing during playoff time as the team seemed to be strictly alternating starters without regard to the opponent or who was the “hot goalie” at the time. The trade alleviates the logjam there and now three Pacific Division teams can claim they have an elite goalie, including the Tacoma Stars and Danny Waltman.
Offensively, the Fury are pretty hollowed out following the trade and will have to bank on Adrien Perez, Juan Carlos Gonzalez, and Maicon De Abreu building on their breakout seasons.
The Sockers have the opposite problem. They have too much depth and are too prone to tinkering. The list of players the Sockers have added is as impressive as the list of players they’ve lost. Head Coach Phil Salvagio’s biggest coaching decision most nights was which 15 players to dress, and which three or four national team-caliber players to sit. While that created competition in practice it also affected chemistry on the field.
De Oliveira should have plenty of opportunities to feed the ball to Kraig Chiles, Christian Gutierrez, and Taylor Bond, but will have to play more defense, and also stay healthy. He only played in 13 of the Fury’s 22 games last year. And he’ll need to do all that without slowing down Brandon Escoto, Hiram Ruiz, and Pee Wee Ortega.
At the end of the day the Sockers are still prohibitive favorites to win the division, while Ontario and Tacoma are expected to duke it out for second place. The Stars probably still have the edge over the Fury.
Most unfortunate are the circumstances that led to the trade as negotiations on a contract extension between the Sockers and Toth went sour, leading to harsh allegations and ill will. At this point not only is Chris Toth gone after eight seasons, but the team’s relationship with Sockers legend, and one of their most visible and beloved alumni, Zoltan Toth has also been fractured. Some delicate fence-mending is in order.