Sockers, Crunch win one-goal thrillers to set up M2 title game with some history

MUSKEGON, Michigan -- Sunday's championship finals between the San Diego Sockers 2 and Cleveland Crunch will have a tough time living up to the spectacular semi-finals Friday that secured berths in the Major Arena Soccer League 2 for the franchises with long histories in the sport. 

Cleveland had to rally from a two-goal fourth-quarter deficit to break the hearts of the homestanding Michigan Risers, 6-5, where just hours early, the Sockers needed overtime to turn back the game Omaha Kings, 9-8.

"Just two fantastic, showcase games for the sport," commissioner Chris Economides noted. "All four teams left every once of effort and heart on the field. They represented everything that's so great about indoor soccer. And we have a championship game that pits two of the most iconic names in the sport against each other. It was a Friday to remember."

San Diego earned it's way to the semi-finals with an overtime restart goal against the RGV Barracudas, and turned the exact same trick in this one. Both goals came from set pieces at  the top of the arc, with Friday's winner coming off the foot of Ismael Rojo with just 85 seconds remaining in the first overtime period.

Neither team could build more than a two goal advantage. Omahs led in the third quarter 6-4 before the Sockers scored four of the next five goals to take an 8-7 lead with 8:31 to play. Omaha's Manny Lira tied the game with just seven seconds to go With the goalie pulled, and San Diego getting a blue card with under 10 seconds to go, Lira took a restart pass, made a couple of moves and fired home the equalizer.

Game replay can be found HERE.

Rojo, Alan Crespo and Hiram Ruiz all had two goals each for San Diego, who also got scores from Lorenzo Rameriez, Alalberto Castellanos and Ramon Ramirez. Omaha, who was just 7-5 in the regular season but went on the road to beat the Wichita Wings in the quarterfinals, was led by Lira and Guilherme Alencar who scored three each. Morgan Penn and Leo Meija also added goals for the Kings. 

The Risers almost pulled off the upset of the year, leading Cleveland 5-3 midway through the fourth, but the Crunch showed their championship pedigree by getting goals in the closing minutes from Admir Suljevic, Gabriel Pewu and Ryan Minnick, who got the game winner with 3:32 to play.

The Crunch got off to a quick 2-0 lead, but Muskegon scored five of the game's next six goals to take their two goal lead when Brandon Edwards got a short handed marker with 9:20 to go in the fourth.

Minnick and Suljevic each had a pair to pace the Cleveland attack. Kevin Blackwood added an additional goal. Aldony Mendez, Robert Williamson, James Dutcher and Alexis Mendez got the other Risers' goals.

The Crunch, who were 12-0 in the regular season, are the defending MASL2 champions. The San Diego Sockers 2 won the title two years ago. The 2019-20 post season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Kickoff for Sunday's title game will be 3:05 p.m. Cleveland and San Diego have twice played for indoor soccer titles in the original Major Indoor Soccer League, with the Sockers winning in four straight over the Cleveland Force in 1987-88, and four games to two against the Crunch in 1990-91. 

Ticket information HERE.