The last time we saw the San Diego Sockers take the field was against the Flash in Monterrey on March 18th. Both of these teams were their respective division champions and the two best teams during the regular season in the MASL’s Western Conference. In the single elimination format the Flash held the home field advantage and bested the Sockers 6-4 only to be defeated by the Baltimore Blast in the 2018 Ron Newman Cup championship game.
That brings us to the 2018/19 MASL preseason. The Sockers are celebrating their 40th anniversary this season. The brand was born in 1978 in the North American Soccer League as an exclusively outdoor franchise. A detailed history of the Sockers can be found at sdsockers.com/history. This season’s slogan is “A Legacy of Champions Since 1978”. No other team, defunct or existing today, can boast 14 national indoor titles.
The three veteran players to watch this season are the Sockers all-time leading scorer Kraig Chiles, last season’s 2nd leading scorer Brandon Escoto, and last year’s league leader in Goals Against Average, Boris Pardo.
There has been considerable turnover in the off season. Matt Clare has gone to Tacoma. Anthony Medina (M5) has retired. Luan Oliveira has gone back to Milwaukee. John Sosa returned to Kansas City. Max Touloute signed with Florida. Perhaps the most notable loss to the Sockers roster was two-time defending Goalkeeper of the Year, Chris Toth, who was traded to the Ontario Fury just this week.
San Diego has picked up some great talent during the offseason also. Defender Manuel Rojo and former 50-goal scorer Christian Gutierrez came in from El Paso. Midfielder Christian Segura signed from Sonora. Travis Pittman was a free agent who last played with the Baltimore Blast. Guerrero Pino was from acquired from Kansas City in the Clare trade. Taylor Bond signed from Tacoma. Leonardo De Oliveira and Juan Gonzalez came from Ontario in the Toth trade.
While losing Chris Toth to a division rival is hard to swallow, I believe it’ll be good for the rivalry and brings more parity to the division. I expect both teams will benefit from the specific exchange of players that trade represents.
The Sockers are happy to have the local legend Craig Elsten back doing the play-by-play along with color commentator Nate Abaurrea on their MASL.tv home games. Elsten has also been named Chief Marketing Officer. The Sockers home games will also be available for audio streaming on Spreaker.com (search Sockers).
I had the pleasure of watching training camp the week before the team left for tonight’s preseason game at the Dallas Sidekicks. While it’s hard to get a complete feel for the team chemistry from a training session, the squad actually seemed tighter than I would have expected with so much turn over.
The Sockers are still on the hunt for championship No. 15, and perhaps this will be the year, but I think the Pacific Division has tightened up, and the Monterrey Flash promise to again be the team to beat in the MASL Western Conference.