The San Diego Sockers, having clinched the league’s West Division title, on Thursday locked down the top seed in the playoffs with a 11-4 win over the Florida Tropics.
With the win, the Sockers, the defending Major Arena Soccer League champs, also won the inaugural Shield for posting the league’s best record.
Tavoy Morgan set a career-high with seven points including five goals, and Charlie Gonzalez added two goals and three assists in the victory, at Pechanga Arena San Diego.
The Sockers (22-0-1) in winning their 19th straight game, also secured home-field advantage throughout the Ron Newman Cup playoffs, set to begin Monday.
The Tropics, also entering the playoffs as the winner of their division, had 53 points through 21 games and needed to win their final three games to clinch the Shield – if San Diego lost their final two.
“It’s very important to come out and get four goals early to give the guys the confidence to go out and play as hard as possible,” said Morgan, who is second in the MASL with 39 goals and third with 49 points. “We were able to steal the game early and were victorious.”
The Sockers received good news earlier in the week when forward Christian Gutierrez, who was feared to be lost to a broken ankle on March 20, returned to practice. He scored two goals Thursday, off a deeply creative pass from Gonzalez, for a 6-1 lead.
Gutierrez later scored on a counter from Gonzalez at 11:26 of the third for his 19th goal of the season.
As the home team, the Sockers host the closing leg of the playoffs, set for April 10 at Pechanga.
Single-match tickets for the April 10 opening-round playoff date (which covers Game Two and a potential Game Three mini-game if necessary) will go on sale Saturday via the AXS ticketing app, sdsockers.com/tickets or phone at (866) 799-GOAL.
Tickets also will be available in-person at the advance ticket window inside Pechanga Arena during the 5:05 p.m. Sunday match, the regular-season finale, vs. Ontario.