Toth plays in goal as Sockers win PASL championship

The San Diego Sockers won their 14th indoor soccer championship, their fourth consecutive Professional Arena Soccer League championship, and their first championship with Fallbrook’s Chris Toth playing goalkeeper in the championship game.

“For me it was special,” Toth said.

Toth was in the nets for both the Sockers’ 6-5 overtime victory March 10 in the semifinals against the Las Vegas Legends and during the Sockers’ 8-6 triumph March 11 against the Detroit Waza Flo which gave the Sockers the Ron Newman Cup. Both games were played at the Valley View Casino Center (formerly the San Diego Sports Arena) in San Diego.

“It was just a crazy weekend,” Toth said.

Toth and Riley Swift shared goaltending duties for the Sockers during 2012-13. During the regular season Swift appeared in 10 games and played 568 minutes while Toth was in the nets during seven games and played 390 minutes.

Swift was in goal Feb. 23 when the Sockers opened their post-season with a 12-11 overtime win over the Turlock Express. The quarterfinals were a two-game series (a 30-minute mini-game would have decided the winner had the teams split), and on Feb. 24 the Sockers defeated Turlock by a 13-4 margin with Toth in the nets. Toth made 25 saves against the Express.

On March 6, Sockers head coach Phil Salvagio told Toth that he would start the semifinal match four days later. “For me I just kind of lit up,” Toth said.

Toth took extra preparations for the playoff game. “Kind of watched a lot of film,” he said.

The semifinal match pitted a Sockers team which was undefeated at home against a Las Vegas team which had not lost on the road. Toth has never lost a game in the nets during his Sockers career either at home or on the road. “I’ve been undefeated every game I’ve played for the Sockers, I’ve won every game, so it was big,” Toth said.

The first quarter of the game was scoreless. Edgar Nava’s goal gave Las Vegas a 1-0 lead 2:07 into the second period. Brian Farber’s goal tied the game for the Sockers, but a short-handed goal by Eric Guzman gave the Legends a 2-1 lead. Goals by Ze Roberto and Kraig Chiles gave the Sockers a 3-2 halftime lead.

“They came back,” Toth said.

The Legends tied the game three times in the second half with their final goal being scored by Rodrigo Barbirato on a corner kick with 43 seconds left in regulation after the Legends pulled their goalie for a sixth attacker. “The guy hit a hell of a shot. It was a tough one up in the top corner,” Toth said of Barbirato’s goal.

The game went into sudden death overtime. “I just tried to keep my cool,” Toth said.

Toth’s first game with the Sockers was in December 2010 against Revolucion Tijuana in Tijuana; the Sockers won that game by a 6-5 score in overtime. “I just kind of thought back to that,” he said.

Chiky Luna’s scissor-kick goal 1:20 into the golden goal period gave the Sockers the victory and sent them to the PASL finals.

Toth made six saves against the Legends, who had more shots blocked by Sockers defenders than shots on goal.

The Waza Flo also won their March 10 semifinal by a 6-5 score in golden goal overtime; the winning goal against the Rio Grande Valley Flash was with 1:30 remaining in the period.

Salvagio also placed Toth in the nets for the championship game. “He just kind of decided to ride with me,” Toth said. “I just didn’t want to slip up.”

Swift was the Sockers’ goalie March 2 in the U.S. Open Cup championship game, when Detroit defeated San Diego by a 7-6 score. “There was a lot of revenge for us,” Toth said of the PASL championship game.

That Open Cup game allowed Toth and the rest of the Sockers to observe Detroit’s style of play, and the Sockers also knew that they could be facing Detroit in the PASL championship match.

Nik Djokic gave Detroit a 1-0 lead 28 seconds into the PASL championship game. With 2:05 elapsed in the second period, the Sockers tied the game on a goal by 43-year-old Paul Wright, who had announced that he would be retiring after the championship game which concluded his 24th professional indoor soccer season. Raymundo Reza’s goal gave the Sockers a 2-1 lead 8:53 into the second period.

With about 20 seconds left in the first half Toth tried to clear a ball from behind the back line. The ball went out of bounds without hitting the ground, giving the Waza Flo a free kick from the top of the penalty area arc.

“I don’t usually make those mistakes,” Toth said. “I just got a little too much of it.”

With four seconds remaining in the half, Costea Decu’s goal tied the game. “It was a mistake but, hey, it happens,” Toth said of his unsuccessful pass.

“I didn’t do it again,” Toth said. “I tried to make up for it at the end.”

Toth knew that he would be scored upon during the game. “It was all about getting a win,” he said.

That win would give him his first championship while he was on the field. “I knew that would mean the most to me,” he said.

The Sockers scored the next two goals, giving them their first multiple-goal lead of the weekend. “They started kind of catching us,” Toth said.

Detroit scored to narrow the margin to 4-3 entering the fourth period. Eduardo Velez’s goal gave the Sockers a 5-3 lead, the Waza Flo scored once again, and Chiles returned a two-goal lead to the Sockers with 7:08 remaining. Miki Djerisilo scored for Detroit with 6:21 left, and Decu’s goal with 4:25 remaining in the fourth quarter tied the game at 6-6.

That would be the final goal Toth allowed that night. “I like to try to stay relaxed, try not to panic,” he said. “I try to just keep it very calm.”

With 4:04 left Luna’s shot from a rebound went off the back of a Waza Flo defender and into the back of the net. The Sockers once again had a one-goal lead.

Detroit pulled the goalkeeper for the sixth attacker with 1:26 remaining. “We were just trying to get the right guys on the field for the situation,” Toth said.

One of those right players for the situation was Farber, whose speed became an advantage for the Sockers. Farber obtained the ball and took a shot from the back half of the field. The ball went into the empty net with 39 seconds remaining.

“We just knew it was ours,” Toth said. “It was an amazing win.”

Toth made 15 saves against the Waza Flo.

The PASL championship was the second one in which the Sockers defeated Detroit in the finals; San Diego took a 10-7 victory last year.

“It was probably the toughest one of all the years of being on the team,” Toth said of this year’s PASL championship.

The season also saw the Sockers extend their winning streak to 48, the longest ever in North American professional sports, before a Jan. 27 loss to the Dallas Sidekicks. The loss to the Waza Flo in the U.S. Open Cup championship game was the Sockers’ only other loss of 2012-13.

“It was awesome to be on such a great team,” Toth said.

“It was just a fantastic year,” Toth said. “It was one great run this year. The team was awesome, and I just look forward to next year.”

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