The San Diego Sockers scored three of their first four goals on restarts and got their last three goals from Brian Farber en route to a 7-5 win over the Harrisburg Heat Friday night at New Holland Arena.
For the Sockers, it was a successful start to a six-game road trip. For the Heat, it was the end of a seven-game home winning streak that dated back to last March.
Harrisburg took their one and only lead of the night at 8:16 of the first quarter when Marcel Berry made a great step to steal the ball and then showed poise in finding William Eskay for a one-timer past Sockers goalkeeper Diego Arriaga, making his third start of the season.
The Heat lead only lasted 1:56 as Kraig Chiles tied the game on a direct free kick that grazed off Dylan Hundelt, past William Banahene. At 2:15 of the second quarter Chiles did it again, this time hitting nothing but net.
The Heat tied the game at 2-2 when Patrick Thompson found Nelson Santana open in front of the Sockers goal. Santana had time to spin and volley the ball past Arriaga,
The Sockers took the lead for good when Slavisa Ubiparipovic stole the ball from Ty Hall in the Heat’s corner and then scooped a shot over a sliding Banahene.
In the third quarter, Chiles made restarts look easy again, triggering a corner kick pass to a streaking Cesar Cerda who got a step on Hall. Farber then made it 5-2 six minutes later. Banahene made a save on Emmanuel Aguirre’s shot and Farber swooped in and sped all the way from the right post to knock the ball in from beyond the left post.
The Heat got back in the game about a minute later with a restart goal of their own. Tom Mellor, who played sparingly, tapped Daniel Villela’s pass past Arriaga, who barely reacted to the shot.
In the fourth quarter, the Heat got another restart goal to cut the Sockers lead to 5-4. Villela crossed the corner kick pass and Mellor backheeled it on to Dominic Francis who roofed it far post. Ironically, it was Arriaga’s best save of the night that set up the Heat corner kick.
“They had momentum; when it got 5-4 we had to take that timeout to stop their momentum,” said Sockers Head Coach Phil Salvagio. “It looked like they were going to come back. We were down Kraig, who didn’t get to play at the end of the game. There were a couple injuries. Pee Wee (Ortega) got knocked up, so we’re kind of hurt right now so I’m glad to finish it out with a win.” Chiles jammed his ankle, but said he would be good to go tomorrow in Baltimore.
The comeback would stall when Banahene made an ill-fated charge at Eduardo Velez in the corner, resulting in a shootout. Brandon Escoto took the shootout and held the ball until a racing Farber could tap it in.
Elton De Oliveira scored with just over three minutes left to cut it to 6-5, but Farber closed out the scoring with an empty-net goal as time expired.
After the game Farber reflected on his hat trick. “A little bit of right spot, right time,” he said. “Shootout, Brandon let me have that one. That was great. Cleaned up a goal early on and then sixth attacker goals have always been kind of my thing, so finishing off at the last second was great, get out of here with this win and get ourselves ready for Baltimore.”
Salvagio was upbeat after the game. “Anytime you win it’s a great win right?” Salvagio beamed. “I feel good. We played well at times and we played bad at times, but anytime you play on the road Harrisburg is a very young, but disciplined team. Pat (Healey) has done a great job with the kids. We couldn’t take advantage of any of their weaknesses so they really did a good job of keeping themselves in the game.”
Regarding the road trip that will ultimately see the Sockers play nine out of 10 on the road, San Diego’s captains echoed similar themes.
“We have a super deep roster and we plan on using everybody in those travel games,” said Chiles, “and we’re decent on the road so we’re excited to be on the road for those games and focus on just soccer and focus on just us together on the road and come together. I think it will be positive for us.”
“That’s our whole goal in this next five games now is to gel a little bit more,” said Farber, “spend more time together and make sure that we’re all on the same page. That’s what a championship team is. They’re all on the same page. You look at the Baltimores and you look at the teams that have won the championships in the past they’re solid teams, the support each other.
“The Sockers have always had that in my tenure but we’ve missed the championship by one goal five years in a row. It’s nothing that we’re doing wrong, we were 25-2 last year at the end. We just need to keep going and maybe the ball will bounce our way.”
Incredibly, the Sockers have won nine in a row and 30 of their last 31 regular season games, but they are still hunting for their first championship since 2013. The Sockers are 9-1 this year but seven of their wins have been by two goals or less.
“We’ve been on tight games for the last couple years,” said Farber. “This league is no joke, everybody’s solid. We’re just trying to take it one game at a time. We’re not so worried about the goals. I think we know the goals will come, but we do need to find that stride a little bit. Defensively is the positive though. We’re not giving up many goals, tonight being one of the highest goals we’ve given up.”
“Good teams find a way to win,” said Salvagio. “Good players will find a way to win in those crucial situations.”
The Sockers will spend the night in Baltimore where they will face their long time rival Baltimore Blast for the first time since 2015. The Blast have struggled to a 5-5 record this year, but will provide a stiff challenge for the Sockers.
Harrisburg will now root for the Sockers to wear out the Blast who will come to Harrisburg to face the Heat on Sunday.