Ortiz, a coach at all levels, seeks another ring with San Diego Sockers

The Sockers hope to advance through the 2022 Major Arena Soccer League playoffs as the No. 1 seed after ending regular season play with a 23-0-1 record. PHOTO/GREG SILLER/SAN DIEGO SOCKERS

Southwest High School alumnus and current Hilltop High School physical education instructor Rene Ortiz has played and coached soccer at just about every level imaginable.

The Lady Lancers won this year’s South Bay League girls soccer championship en route to advancing to the Division IV section championship game.

Prior to coaching at Hilltop, Ortiz won a Division IV boys championship at Mater Dei Catholic in 2002.

Ortiz also doubles as head coach of the Mexican national indoor soccer team, winning the 20019 World Mini-Football World Cup championship.

Not to be overshadowed, Ortiz also serves as an assistant coach with the San Diego Sockers of the Major Arena Soccer League and head coach of the club’s development team, the Sockers2.

As a player, Ortiz won three league championships with the Sockers from 1988-90.

Ortiz led the Sockers2 to a 12-0 record and the MASL2 championship in 2018-19.

He’s looking to add to his championship ring collection.

The Sockers carried a 20-game winning streak into their opening playoff game in Milwaukee on Thursday. Photo Greg Siller/San Diego Sockers

The Sockers captured their 15th indoor championship last season — and first in the MASL – while playing their entire 2020-21 schedule on the road due to COVID-19 protocols.

The Sockers compiled a modest 4-6 regular season record before catching fire in the playoffs with a 6-1 record to eliminate the Tacoma Stars and Florida Tropics in successive playoff series before topping the Ontario Fury in a best-of-three series.

The Sockers won the first game in the finals by a score of 7-5, then lost by a score of 6-5 in overtime in the second game to necessitate a tiebreaker game that the Sockers won 2-1 to cap their championship season. Cesar Cerda scored the game-winning goal in the mini-game.

It was an ironman 17-game road performance that included five one-goal victories in the playoffs.

“It was very difficult,” Ortiz explained. “We had to play all our games on the road and deal with COVID throughout the season.”

Ortiz even had to step into the lead role on the bench during one stretch when the team was undermanned.

Fast forward one season and the Sockers — riding a marathon 20-game winning streak — hope to advance to this year’s championship round right at home after securing the league’s No. 1 playoff seed.

The Sockers (23-0-1) will host the eighth-seeded Milwaukee Wave (10-12-2) on Sunday, April 10, at 5 p.m. at Pechanga Arena San Diego to cap the quarterfinal round of the Ron Newman Cup championship playoffs following Thursday’s series opener in Milwaukee.

As the higher-seeded team, the Sockers will host a mini-game tiebreaker, if needed, to determine the winner of the best-of-three series.

Other seeded playoff teams include the No. 2 Florida Tropics SC (18-3-2), No. 3 Kansas City Comets (13-9-2), No. 4 Chihuahua Savage (15-7-2), No. 5 Baltimore Blast (12-9-2), No. 6 Dallas Sidekicks (11-12-1) and No. 7 St. Louis Ambush (10-12-2).

Interestingly, the playoff match-up pairs Ortiz with his former team for which he scored 92 goals in 133 games from 1990-94.

The Sockers maintain a strong connection to the San Diego County youth soccer community. Photo by Greg Siller/San Diego Sockers

The Sockers defeated the Fury, 4-3 on Sunday to conclude regular season play as goalkeeper Boris Pardo earned the first star award with a 0.786 save percentage, Leonardo De Oliveira received the second star award with two goals and veteran Kraig Chiles was voted third star honors with two assists.

Ontario (9-13-2) held the opening 1-0 lead before the Sockers nosed ahead, 2-1, on goals by Charlie Gonzalez and De Oliveira. The game was later tied 2-2 and 3-3 before De Oliveira supplied the game-winner late in the fourth quarter.

Pardo made a leaping save with 11 seconds to play to secure the team’s 20th consecutive victory and, in the process, eliminate the Fury from playoff contention.

Tavoy Morgan led the Sockers in regular season scoring with 39 goals and 49 points, followed by De Oliveira with 46 points (13 goals, 33 assists) and Brandon Escoto with 44 points (23 goals, 21 assists). De Oliveira led the league in assists.

Chiles, a Poway High School and SDSU alumnus and the all-time Sockers scoring leader, registered 22 goals and 19 assists for 41 points to rank fourth overall in team scoring.

Pardo complied a 19-0-1 regular season record with a 4.20 goals-against average and 0.731 save percentage.

Milwaukee’s Ian Bennett led the league with 50 goals and 62 points.

The Sockers hold the record for longest winning streak by an American professional soccer team at 48 games (2010-13).

Sockers kick off MASL playoffs with 9-2 win

The top-seeded Sockers kicked off the 2022 MASL Ron Newman Cup playoffs with a 9-2 win over the eighth-seeded Milwaukee Wave Thursday at the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena in Milwaukee. The Sockers take a 1-0 lead in the teams’ best-of-three quarterfinal series, needing one more win in Sunday’s return match at Pechanga Arena San Diego to advance to the semifinals.

Veteran Kraig Chiles had two goals and one assist, Leonardo de Oliveira had one goal and two assists, regular season scoring leader Tavoy Morgan scored two goals and goalkeeper Boris Pardo anchored a dominant defensive effort with 17 saves as the Sockers extended their winning streak to 21 consecutive victories.

With the win, the Sockers improved to 13-0 on the road.

The Sockers, who exceled on shot-blocking and scoring off set plays in the game, led by a 4-0 score at halftime despite being out-shot 19-6.

Milwaukee’s Ian Bennett, the MASL’s leading scorer in the regular season, scored a meaningless power play goal in the final minute of play with his team trailing 9-1.


Getting their kicks

With San Diego County’s sunny weather and its diverse population, soccer seems perfectly suited for the region both as a participation sport and spectator sport.

NWSL San Diego Wave earns first win in franchise history

Team USA veteran Alex Morgan scored two goals for the Wave. Photo by Andy Bartotto

The San Diego Wave recorded its first victory in franchise history last Saturday by defeating Angel City FC, 4-2, in a National Women’s Soccer League Challenge Cup group stage match at Torero Stadium.

A crowd of 5,158 witnessed the history-making event.

The win raised the fledgling Wave’s record in the preseason tournament to 1-1-1 while Angel City, based in the Los Angeles area, saw its record drop to 0-3-1.

The Wave improved its position in the Group B standings to third place with four points — trailing both the OL Reign (2-1-0) and Portland Thorns (2-1-1), both with seven points. Angel City sits in last place in the four-team group with one standing point.

The Wave led 2-1 at halftime on goals by Jodie Taylor (19th minute) and Team USA veteran Alex Morgan (45th minute plus stoppage time). Angel City had tied the match in the 38th minute on an own goal by the Wave.

The second half featured additional tallies by Morgan (72nd minute) and Amirah Ali (81st minute) for the Wave to snap a 2-2 deadlock after the visitors had tied the match in the 59th minute on a goal by Christen Press.

Statistically, the Wave enjoyed a wide margin in shots (23-11) and shots on target (11-6). Angel City, however, owned the edge in possession (54 percent) and pass accuracy (72 percent), The hosts received three yellow caution cards.

Wave head coach Casey Stoney said she was “overcome with pride” by the team’s performance in gathering its first victory in club history. “I thought it showed real character (in breaking the two ties),” she said. “Quality players showed their quality on the pitch.”

The Wave returns to Challenge Cup action April 14 in Seattle against the OL Reign and plays at Portland on April 17 before hosting the Reign April 23 to conclude group play.

All 12 NWSL clubs, split evenly into three four-team groups, are participating in the Challenge Cup. Four teams advance to the semifinal playoffs on May 4. The championship game is scheduled May 7.

Portland won last year’s Challenge Cup tournament.

Alex Morgan scored twice for the Wave.


Kyle Vassell of the San Diego Loyal drives up field during Sunday’s home match against the El Paso Locomotive. Photos courtesy SD Loyal and USL championship

Undefeated home streak continues as Loyal moves to 4-1

Special to The East County Californian

San Diego Loyal SC fought to the end to hold onto a 3-2 win against the visiting El Paso Locomotive FC in front of an excited crowd at Torero Stadium on Sunday. With the win, Landon Donovan’s team moves to 4-1 with 12 points, its best start in franchise history through five games.

The win was in part thanks to an offense that created a fluid brand of soccer in the first half. It did it with a handful of players meshing to keep the Western Conference rival trying to find ways to stop the attack. Kyle Vassell, Tumi Moshobane and Thomas Amang each found the net for the home side. Earning another three points, SD Loyal remains undefeated at home this season with a 3-0 record.

Vassell, Amang, Moshobane, Nick Moon, Evan Conway, Alejandro Guido and Collin Martin were all big-time playmakers on the offensive side.

Vassell and Moshobane scored in the first half when the Loyal mostly controlled possession and pinned El Paso into its own side of the field. Guido and Moon, the man of the match, helped create the rhythm of the first half attack. It ultimately resulted in Vassell and Moshobane’s goals.

Vassell opened up the scoring in the 21st minute when he buried a shot a few feet from the El Paso goal line. The English striker took a quick cross that Moon flicked into the six-yard box after he sprinted into the penalty box with a pass to himself. He then found a wide open Vassell ready to tap in the ball with the goalkeeper beat, giving the Loyal the 1-0 lead.

Donovan’s squad continued to pressure despite taking the lead. Amang had a chance to score on a run but El Paso goalkeeper Even Newton slid to block the potential goal.

The Locomotive (0-4-0) answered that the Loyal attack with a score by Harry Brockbank in the 26th minute. Brockbank was able to sneak behind the SD Loyal back line to put back a shot by a sliding Lacho Solignac. Brockbank charged in and sent in the deflection by Koke Vegas, the San Diego goalkeeper, into the roof of the net. The visitor’s goal came at a time in which the Loyal had dominated possession and the match was mostly played on the El Paso side of the pitch with Donovan’s team still pressing on the attack.

The strategy paid off again when the Loyal took a 2-1 lead when Moshobane fired a left-footed blast past Newton. The midfielder was open inside the penalty box and didn’t waste his chance after taking a pass from Conway. It was the South African’s first goal of the season. The scoring play came off a long cross from Amang to Conway, who set the pin-point pass to Moshobane prior to the score.

But the Loyal would not have the same fluidity Donovan would have liked to have in the second half despite taking a 3-1 lead with a goal by Amang in the 64th minute. Amang extended the SD Loyal lead 3-1 when he sent in a low-rolling shot from left to right off the right post. Amang beat Yuma Monsalves near the left sideline and dribbled up field to open space where he looked up and sent in his right-footed shot for his second score of the season.

“You guys heard me say a lot last year when I was happy with a performance whether we win tie or lose,” Donovan said. “It would be hypocritical to be excited about tonight after the second half. I was disappointed with the last 30 minutes of the game. You can make every excuse, but good teams don’t do that.”

The Loyal had to figure out a way to escape an El Paso surge late in the game after the Texans scored again. Aaron Gomez found the net in the 87th minute to seal the scoring for the day, sending the ball in after a defensive miscue in the six-yard box in a shaky second half.

“In the first half, we had more control of the game.” Donovan said. “They gave us a lot of opportunities to attack. In the second half, we just fell off. It led to a lot of defending. We are not built for that. But there was a lot of good stuff. We should have scored six or seven goals in the first half to be honest.”

The Loyal will now have a chance to score more goals as it heads into a week of training to prepare for its first U.S. Open Cup match, an in-town affair against Albion SC at Canyon Crest Stadium on Wednesday (April 6). Then it will be back to USL Championship action to host Charleston Battery for the first time on Saturday, April 9, at 7 p.m. at Torero Stadium.