With just five games left in their regular season schedule, and with the team sitting in first place in the Pacific Division, the San Diego Sockers are looking poised to make a serious run at an Major Arena Soccer League championship.
The Sockers are 10-5 on the campaign, and playing an extremely well rounded brand of indoor soccer, combining the high scoring, fast moving excitement that fans love with the gritty and organized defensive displays that have impressed and irritated opposing players and coaches.
The team’s motto this season is “quest for 15”, the Sockers currently with 14 championships to their names. Those championship banners, which all hang from the rafters inside the Valley View Casino Center, go back most recently to the short lived PASL and the Sockers brief but memorable tenure playing on a platform field at the Del Mar Racetrack, what some passionate local fans jokingly referred to as “outdoor indoor soccer”.
The Sockers were originally founded as a North American Soccer League franchise in 1978. They alternated as an NASL outdoor and indoor team from 1980-84, but came inside for good when the NASL folded in 1984.
The indoor championship banners go all the way back to those NASL days, the first coming in the 1981/82 season. The banners also feature a heavy presence of the heyday of the old MISL/MSL in the 1980’s and early 90’s, when capacity crowds packed the San Diego Sports Arena, and indoor soccer was all the rage in the local sports scene.
(Check this out! From 1992. Game 6 of of MSL Championship Series, with iconic American soccer voice JP Dellacamera on the call.)
While crowds here in 2017 are not packing the Valley View Casino Center to the back row the way they were into the early 90’s, the Sockers are still bringing in quality numbers.
Friday’s home game saw 3,615 fans enjoy a 9-3 walloping of divisional rivals the Tacoma Stars, a win that gave the Sockers a commanding 1.5 game lead in the Pacific.
On January 21st, for a home game against newfound rivals Soles de Sonora (one of two Mexican based teams in the MASL, the other being Tijuana’s Atletico Baja), 5,250 people created a raucous atmosphere, as the Sockers kept the highest scoring offense in the league off the scoreboard for 55 of the game’s 60 minutes. They defeated los Soles 5-2 that night, exacting a bit of revenge for Sonora’s playoff series win that knocked the Sockers out of the postseason.
That engaging evening also saw the Sockers hold a spirited alumni match at halftime, bringing back many of the stars that became San Diego household names in decades prior.
However, the boys from Hermosillo did get some sweet revenge of their own, beating the Sockers south of the border this past Saturday night, in overtime by a score of 8-7. It was a challenging back-to-back for San Diego, the Sockers playing two matches in two countries in less than 24 hours. But back-to-backs are part and parcel for this league, and the quest for 15 has no room for excuses.
Even with the loss, things are looking pretty good for the Sockers as the regular season winds down. The most recent home game, Friday’s 9-3 win over Tacoma, featured some of the most incredible highlight reel goals of the season, as well as another quality night of defensive work from San Diego’s home team.
(Have a look at the highlights from the 9-3 win over Tacoma, with commentary from yours truly and Sockers play-by-play broadcaster Marc Serber.)
For those reading this article who have never been to a Sockers game, or if you’ve never seen a professional indoor game played, it should be said that the whole concept can take some getting used to. But once that acclimation process concludes, a wild and vastly entertaining spectacle awaits, one that can certainly get you hooked.
Sockers team captain and local fan favorite Kraig Chiles calls the unique sport “a mixture between soccer and hockey”. Many players speak of the quickness of the 6 v. 6 game, and the ability to go 100% at all times with line changes affording team’s fresh sets of legs on rotation. Others harp on the importance of a sharp first touch, as well as the intense physicality that is commonplace on the arena floor.
(See Chiles educate the world in this Guide to Arena Soccer)
On and off the field, Chiles is the role model for what the Sockers organization strives to represent. Nicknamed the “Pride of Poway”, Chiles is right at home inside the arena and in a Sockers jersey.
This season has seen Chiles soar to new heights and accomplish some incredible feats. In December, Chiles passed Sockers legend of the 80’s and early 90’s Branko Segota as the all-time leading goal scorer in franchise history. The prior record of 298 was broken on December 30th against the Ontario Fury, unfortunately away from San Diego.
As special as the moment was for Chiles, he was anxious to move on with life.
“It’s a great accomplishment and I’m glad I could get it done,” said Chiles that night. “But I’m focused on team goals and getting us to a championship.”
Chiles has 26 goals on the season, currently at 307 for his Sockers career. At 32 years of age, he doesn’t look to be breaking down anytime soon.
Having a true connection with the local youth soccer community is something in which the Sockers take immense pride. In Chiles, they have more than a great presence in the arena. The Sockers have a local soccer ambassador.
After playing at Poway High School, Chiles started in 59 straight matches and scored 22 goals for the Aztecs of San Diego State University. After graduating from SDSU in 2008, Chiles was drafted into Major League Soccer, playing one season for Chivas USA before returning home to San Diego County, and beginning his now storied indoor career with the Sockers.
In addition to starring at the arena, Chiles is the Director of Coaching for the Cardiff Mustangs. He offers so much of his time to the youth of San Diego County, none more than he and his wife Stacey’s own three children, twin boys Brady and Austin and his daughter Peyton. You will customarily see the Chiles kids at the Valley View Casino Center, as Kraig almost always brings the youngsters out of the tunnel with him during the team’s dramatic entrance to the field prior to kickoff. Family always comes first for the Sockers all-time leading scorer.
Focused as ever on the task at hand, Chiles and the Sockers are ready to make a run for the whole thing. The “quest for 15” continues with a home and home with the El Paso Coyotes. The Sockers travel to southwest Texas for a game this coming Friday, before the two teams meet again in San Diego on Thursday, February 16th.