San Diego Sockers 2 pull away from Cleveland Crunch to win M2 championship

MUSKEGON, Michigan -- It's a good time to be a San Diego Sockers fan.

The Sockers 2 broke a 3-3 tie seconds before the end of the first half and went on to defeat the Cleveland Crunch, 7-4, in the Major Arena Soccer League 2 championship game Sunday in Muskegon.

The Sockers 2 also won the M2 crown at the end of the 2018-19 season, and their parent team is the defending Major Arena Soccer League champions. They are also the odds on favorite to win the 2022 Ron Newman Cup title as well, although they are just into the semi-final round at the moment.

Cleveland came in following a perfect regular season, and as defending M2 champions, and only led once when Mike Derezic scored with just over five minutes to play in the first quarter to give the Crunch a 2-1 edge.

Back-to-back goals by Hiram Ruiz, who ended the night with the hat trick, gave San Diego a one-goal lead midway through the second before Derezic, who also had the hat trick, tied it at 3-3.

But the Sockers got a big momentum boost heading to the half when Ismael Rojo picked up a loose ball near his own yellow line and went the length of the floor, slipping a shot between the legs of Cleveland netminer Marijo Muso with just 13 seconds to go before intermission. 

Goals two minutes apart from Luis Perez and Alalberto Castellanos  put the San Diego advantage to 6-3 midway through the third, and they held on from there.

"San Diego has always been one of the premier franchises in the history of the sport, so they are more than worthy champions," Commissioner Chris Economides noted. "It was a great three days of action and we thank Muskegon on doing a great job hosting our Championship weekend. Every team here had a legitimate shot at the title, and the heart and determination and excitement level of over game was off the charts."

San Diego needed overtime to defeat the RGV Barracudas in the quarterfinals, and overtime again on Friday to defeat the Omaha Kings. Cleveland, by virtue of being the No. 1 overall playoff seed, got an automatic berth into the semi-finals, where they rallied from two down Friday to defeat the host Risers, 6-5. 

Rojo, who had two goals and an assist in the win, was named the 2022 M2 Chicco Borja Most Valuable Player for his postseason heroics. He also had two goals and an assist in the semi-final win over the Kings and two goals in the win over RGV.