3/11/13 – SAN DIEGO–The San Diego Sockers are four-time defending champions of the Professional Arena Soccer League, cementing their position as a dynastic force in the sport of indoor soccer.
Chiky Luna broke a 6-6 tie on a deflected goal with 4:04 remaining in the fourth quarter, and Brian Farber’s empty netter clinched the PASL Ron Newman Cup championship for San Diego, cementing an 8-6 victory over the Detroit Waza Flo in front of 3,336 at the Valley View Casino Center. Luna’s rebound bid from the right wing caromed off the back of Detroit defender Scotty Wright and into the back of the net, giving Chiky game-winning goals in both the semifinal and final game.
“Two days in a row. I can’t even describe it,” said Luna, a Vista grad who netted four goals in the playoffs, “I’m working as hard as I can, and luckily I’m getting some chances. The ball’s been breaking my way and I feel very fortunate.”
Three-time PASL MVP Kraig Chiles scored his 14th and 15th goals of the playoffs and added an assist, finishing the year with 71 goals in 20 total games. Eduardo Velez had a goal and two assists and SDSU rookie Raymundo Reza contributed key two-way play, finishing with a goal and assist while working hard to win balls in the backfield.
Detroit refused to let San Diego pull away even after the Sockers built 4-2, 5-3, and 6-4 leads.
Aaron Byrd, Miki Djerisilo, and Costea Decu each scored to keep Detroit in the game. Decu’s second goal of the game, a spectacular play in a weekend full of highlight reel material, tied the game briefly at 6-6 before Luna’s game-winner.
After conceding the game’s opening goal on a long run by Detroit’s Nik Djokic, the Sockers found themselves trailing 1-0 after the first quarter. They gained inspiration when 43-year-old Paul Wright, a midfielder in his 24th year of professional indoor soccer, made a pure run through the midfield, accepting a through ball from Velez and beating Waza keeper Joe Kapinos to level the score at 1-1.
Wright, who announced his retirement on Facebook prior to the game, was introduced wearing the first jersey he ever donned with the San Diego Sockers, from the 1990-91 season. Paul finishes his illustrious career with seven indoor championships and a probable future place in the San Diego Hall of Champions.
“I dreamt about this all year long,” said Wright of finishing his career with another championship, “We worked hard for it as a team, and this is how I wanted it to end. To have it end the way we planned it all year long, it’s just the best thing in the world.”
Reza’s goal, running in on right wing to convert a Chiles’ centering header, gave San Diego a 2-1 lead. Detroit took advantage of a defensive clear by Chris Toth with five seconds remaining in the half, as First-Team All-PASL defender Costea Decu ripped in a restart goal, tying the game 2-2 going into intermission.
Anthony Medina’s power play goal with 8:45 in the third quarter gave the Sockers a 3-2 lead, and Chiles’ second of the game 41 seconds later put San Diego ahead by two for the first time on the night. Detroit quickly answered back on Miki Djerisilo’s shot from the right edge of the crease, and the Sockers protected a 4-3 lead into the fourth quarter.
An increasingly physical game saw the Waza whistled for a tripping call late in the third quarter, a blue card penalty converted into a goal by Eduardo Velez, who half volleyed home a Susi pass on right angle to put the Sockers ahead 5-3. After Detroit’s Aaron Byrd and Chiles exchanged goals, Detroit mounted their last furious rally of the night. Djerisilo and Decu scored two minutes apart to equalize at 6-6.
Twenty-one seconds later, Luna’s bid found the back of Wright, the back of the net, and the Sockers were on their way to their fourteenth major indoor title.
Detroit, despite falling short of the ultimate goal, enjoyed its best season in their five year history. The Waza Flo went 14-2 in the regular season, swept Cincinnati in the Division Finals series, and eliminated a Rio Grande Valley Flash team who was riding a 10-game winning streak.
Most importantly they captured the US Open trophy from San Diego, handing the Sockers their first loss in regulation time since 2010.