Landon Donovan Cheered During SD Sockers Debut
The San Diego soccer community welcomed Landon Donovan in numbers as the U.S. soccer legend made his MASL debut on Friday night. Fans were in attendance to catch a glimpse of Donovan’s first match of his arena soccer career. The U.S. soccer legend signed with the MASL club for the remainder of the season in recent weeks.
MASL Soccer News: The San Diego Sockers defeated Tacoma Stars, 6-4, on Friday night at Ron Newman Field at Pechanga Arena San Diego in front of 8,492 supporters. The dominant victory was accompanied by Landon Donovan’s Major Arena Soccer League (MASL) debut as well as the Celebrity Match played at halftime.
“It’s awesome, and this team deserves it,” said Donovan. “It’s the best team in the league, the most storied franchise in soccer history and the players deserve it. I think the crowd got to know a lot of these players tonight, see great goals, and their personalities shine, it’s a win-win for everyone.”
The Sockers (13-1) set a franchise record for attendance since 2009 while winning their eleventh consecutive match.
Brian Farber scored the opener for the hosts in the eighth minute of the first quarter with a tap-in finish. An assist from Taylor Bond off a set-piece set up Farber to beat the goalkeeper.
The Stars equalized in the 12th minute with Philip Lund on the scoring end. Derek Johnson served a low ball into the penalty area from the right corner to find Lund for the finish.
A skilled effort by Cesar Cerda gave the Sockers a 2-1 lead with 11:21 remaining in the second quarter. As the defender closed in, Cerda rolled the ball to his right and finished low to the back post. Guerrero Pino was credited with the assist. Juan Gonzalez extended San Diego’s lead midway through the half with a calm finish following a wall pass off the end-line boards from Bond.
A lone effort from Pino extended the lead to 4-1 with 5:21 left of the half. Once Pino’s defender committed, he dummied the pass through his legs in order for the ball to deflect off the sideline boards. Pino blew past the defender, dribbled down the middle of the field and finished from the red line.
During a power play advantage, Donovan recorded his first points with under three minutes left to play of the half. Donovan collected the ball near the left corner, picked his head up and slotted a low pass to the back post to Brandon Escoto for the easy finish. Escoto is the leading goalscorer for the Sockers with 18 goals on the season.
The Sockers entered halftime with a 5-1 advantage.
Tacoma cut the lead to three with under six minutes left to play of the third quarter. Nick Perera collected the ball unmarked near the left sideline at midfield and dribbled down the throat of the defense. As the defense collapsed, Lund found Perera near the right post for the finish.
The Sockers regained a four-goal advantage off an authoritative strike from Travis Pittman. Perera responded less than a minute later for Tacoma. San Diego held a 6-3 lead heading into the final quarter.
Tacoma found the back of the net three minutes into the fourth quarter. A blocked shot fell to the feet of Troy Peterson who finished with authority to get the Stars within a two-goal reach.
Tacoma brought on a sixth attacker with four minutes remaining, but the San Diego Sockers were able to stall the opposition in order to record its 11th straight victory.
“It’s definitely a good win,” said Gonzalez. “They beat us the last time they came here. I think it helped us out because after that it’s been a good turn around overall as a team.”
When asked about Donovan’s transition into the team, Gonzalez acknowledged the competitiveness brought to the squad and two-way communication as being essential.
“We welcomed him into the team the same way we talk to him without a problem,” said Gonzalez. “It’s been good for us. It’s definitely putting pressure on some of the guys, and it makes everyone work harder at training.”
San Diego played without team captain Kraig Chiles (hamstring) and lost Farber to a hamstring injury in the second period. The Stars saw Chris Keitz and Lund take second-half injuries in the match and not return to action.
Both teams now travel to Tacoma for the return leg of the weekend home-and-home series, as the Stars host the Sockers on Sunday night at 5:00 p.m. PT at ShoWare Center in Kent. The game will be streamed live on MASL.tv.
The Sockers return to Ron Newman Field at Pechanga Arena San Diego on Friday, March 1, 7:35 p.m. PT to take on Turlock Express.