By Joe Naiman
Village News Correspondent 

Toth makes 19 saves in Sockers' regular-season finale


Last updated 3/19/2018 at 12:01pm

Sen. Joel Anderson shows off some fancy footwork on the soccer pitch at the celebrity soccer game held during halftime of the San Diego Sockers' final game of the season, March 3. Courtesy photo

The San Diego Sockers closed out their 2017-2018 regular season with a 10-3 win over the El Paso Coyotes, and 2007 Fallbrook High School graduate Chris Toth made 19 saves in the March 3 game at the Valley View Casino Center also known as the San Diego Sports Arena.

The 5,218 spectators in attendance actually saw two games; a halftime celebrity game included the first soccer play by state Sen. Joel Anderson since the Sockers' 1978 initial season.

Toth saved all four El Paso shots during the first period, in which the Sockers scored three times. Toth stopped the Coyotes' first six shots on goal before Christian Gutierrez made the score 4-1 with 4 minutes, 3 seconds elapsed in the second period. Toth ended the first half with six saves, and the 4-1 score was maintained through the halftime whistle.

The celebrity game divided more than 30 players into Team Kaiser Permanente and Team Cal Coast Credit Union, named after the Sockers' two primary sponsors. Anderson played for Team Kaiser Permanente and wore uniform No. 38, since he represents the 38th State Senate District.

"I never had so much fun since I played in high school," Anderson said.

Anderson spent much of his childhood in Michigan and initially attended Adlai Stevenson High School in Livonia. He played soccer for the Spartans as a freshman and sophomore before the family moved to Spring Valley. Anderson played for St. Augustine High School as a junior and senior.

"It was every bit as much fun as I remember when I was 16," Anderson, who turned 58 in February, said.

The celebrity game was the first soccer Anderson played since he graduated from St. Augustine in 1978.

"The only running I've done in the last 10 years is for office," he said.

Anderson was elected to the Padre Dam Municipal Water District board in 2002, to the state Assembly in 2006 and 2008, and to the state Senate in 2010 and 2014. He is currently seeking the state Board of Equalization seat which includes San Diego, Riverside, Orange, Imperial and San Bernardino counties.

"Seeing a middle age robust man like me must give everybody encouragement," Anderson said of playing.

Anderson was a midfielder on the St. Augustine team and spent most of the celebrity game in the midfield position before moving to the defensive side of the pitch later in the match.

"I was an all fielder," he said.

Radio personality Geoff "Cabana Boy" Allen scored in the fourth minute to give Team Cal Coast Credit Union a 1-0 lead, but with 85 seconds remaining former Sockers player Gus Castaneda scored the equalizer and the game ended in a 1-1 tie.

"I was playing with some really great players," Anderson said.

Anderson became one of the few elected officials to admit to stealing something, as approximately two minutes into the game he took the ball away.

"I was so proud of myself to steal the ball," he said.

He wasn't so proud of his fall to the turf.

"One of the things I said I didn't want to do was faceplant," Anderson said. "One of the first things I did was faceplant."

Anderson skinned his knee during his faceplant.

"I was just grateful I didn't get a heart attack," he said.

Anderson had never previously played indoor soccer.

"I had so much fun," he said.

The Sockers set a season record for attendance. "That's good," Anderson said. "It was a banner night."

Anderson, who has lived in Alpine since 1987, held Sockers season tickets before his position in Sacramento reduced his time in San Diego County.

"I love the Sockers," he said. "I usually try to get to as many games as I can. They're your best sport for families. These athletes take care of their fans better than anybody else. They love their fans."

After the Sockers' game, Sockers players signed autographs for fans on one side of the field and celebrities including Anderson signed autographs on the other side of the field. "I'm grateful to be here with great athletes who love and care about the community," Anderson said.

The Sockers drew the record crowd despite some CIF San Diego Section championship soccer games being played that evening.

"That's the only day we could get, which actually turned out good because we had our biggest crowd," Sockers general manager Sean Bowers said.

"It was good energy. We felt it. I think we did well throughout the whole game," Toth said.

Toth added 10 saves during the third period, after which the Sockers held a 7-1 advantage.

"In the third there was a little spell of shots that they had," he said. "They had some good opportunities. We kind of weathered the storm."

Toth saved 12 consecutive shots before Jose Lozano's goal with 9:05 remaining made the score 9-2.

"We kind of ran away with that after the third," Toth said.

With 6:34 left on the clock Anthony Medina, who between the first and second quarters announced his retirement at the end of the season, scored his third goal of the game. Lozano scored with 5:54 left to finalize the 10-3 score.

"Whatever I can do," Toth said of making 19 saves and saving 18 of the first 19 El Paso shots. "It's my job."

A team behind in the fourth quarter often transitions to an offensive-oriented formation, so winning goalkeepers often allow a disproportionate number of fourth-period goals.

"He had a fabulous night," Sockers coach Phil Salvagio. "It's one of the best games I've seen him play. Made some big, big saves. We got the defense. We have the lowest goals against all year as a team."

The Sockers allowed 84 goals in their 22 regular-season games while scoring 166. Toth played 12 games and allowed 45 goals for a 3.80 goals against average, and his 134 saves gave him a save percentage of .753. Toth had assists on five of the Sockers' goals.

The victory gave the Sockers a 19-3 record for the regular season and clinched second place in the Major Arena Soccer League for playoff purposes. The Sockers, who won the Pacific Division, begin the three-round playoffs against the Tacoma Stars and host Tacoma March 10.

Sen. Joel Anderson takes the field for the celebrity soccer game during halftime of the San Diego Sockers' regular-season finale March 3. Greg Siller photo


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