Ontario’s Toth Eager for Clash with Former Sockers Mates

by Gunnar Berndt

San Diego’s Landon Donovan to be on bench as Fury looks to get back on track

By Gunnar Berndt

Ontario, Calif. – The Ontario Fury welcomes rivals San Diego Sockers to the Inland Empire this week for an MASL (Major Arena Soccer League) clash that is of crucial importance given a 1-5 record since January 5 and a recent surprise defeat to Pacific Division bottom dwellers Turlock Express. Former Sockers goalkeeping ace Chris Toth, who was traded to Ontario three months ago in a late offseason move that sent shockwaves through both fan communities, offered his thoughts on the state of his current side and on what it would mean to bag a win against the club he called home for nearly a decade.

Long-time U.S. Men’s National Team captain and star of three FIFA World Cups, Landon Donovan, who signed with San Diego two weeks ago, will not be suiting up to play yet but will join his team on the bench for the match at Citizens Business Bank Arena. Tickets may be purchased by clicking here or by calling 909-457-0252.

The high-profile meeting between the Fury and visiting San Diego is set to kick off at 7 p.m. PT on Thursday, February 7. As part of the MASL’s first nation-wide television partnership, all the action will be broadcast live by Eleven Sports, which, in addition to streaming live on the Twitch platform via its free digital channel Eleven Sports NEXT (Watch here), is available via national cable/satellite systems (DIRECTV channel 623, AT&T U-verse channel 1665, Verizon Fios channel 597) and other cable and OTT providers (RCN 571, Atlantic Broadband 501, Hawaiian Telcom 1091, Sony PlayStation Vue, FUBO TV).

After trailing 3-2 early in the fourth quarter of this past Friday’s loss at Turlock, the Fury conceded three more times before storming back with five consecutive goals to draw level at 7-7, dramatically forcing the frantic affair into overtime. With the Express having lost both of their nominal netminders to injury, Ontario defender Victor Quiroz took full advantage by adding two more goals to his earlier tally, only to later bring down an opposition attacker and set the stage for Martyn Arista’s golden goal via shootout.

“We didn’t have a good enough start to the game,” said the Fury’s Toth. “When you go back to all the games we’ve won this season, we’ve always started well and so I think that’s important for us. We also played too much the way we’d play on a big arena field. Because Turlock’s field is small, it’s difficult to play our normal style there and we let that frustrate us. The part I was happy with was fighting to come back from five down in the final six minutes. It was great to see everybody determined to win and not giving up. Obviously it’s a tough one to swallow, coming back like that and then ending up losing.”

With the defeat, Ontario has dropped to 7-7 overall and risks being overtaken in the postseason hunt by the Tacoma Stars, who also sit at .500 after making up a three-win deficit in less than three weeks.

“The predominant feeling in the locker room was that we shouldn’t have lost,” Toth offered in reflecting on the Fury’s game at Turlock. “I’m hoping everyone will take it personally and put in even more effort against San Diego because they’re a top-tier team and you definitely won’t get the result if you don’t bring it. Everyone knows we really need to rebound with a win and then hopefully go on a bit of a streak from there.”

The Ontario netminder, whose November move up north alongside Andrew Lorei saw Juan Gonzalez and Leonardo De Oliveira sent the other way, bid farewell to the Sockers after representing them in close to 100 games from 2010 to 2018 and twice earning MASL Goalkeeper of the Year honors. About three decades prior, his father Zoltan had found himself in a similar situation, having laced up over 150 times for San Diego before continuing his career with the St. Louis Storm.

“I talked to my dad a bit and he told me how it was for him,” said the younger Toth, “but it was still a weird feeling when we first hosted the Sockers back in December because I had been there for so long and had never played against them. But it was also a new challenge and it was pretty cool knowing we were officially opponents now. Going against those guys, yeah, I want to beat them. I’m not in San Diego anymore and I want them to know what they lost. Every time I play them, I’m going to make things very difficult.”

The Sockers, whose roster has seen a decent amount of turnover this season, remain stacked with talent and have been cruising atop the Pacific Division with a 10-1 record.

Said Toth of his former club, “Their style is to keep the ball and they have experienced players who are very smart about that. They know when not to force a ball, when to go for it and when not to go. They’re also usually spot-on with set pieces and they have a strong power play team despite having struggled with that this year. Defensively they have a lot of good players, like Ray Contreras and “Pee Wee” Ortega, and the same goes for the midfield and for Kraig (Chiles) and Leo (De Oliveira) on the attack.”

While San Diego’s offense is led by Brandon Escoto (tied for fifth in MASL with 24 points; tied for eighth with ten assists), ex-Fury forward De Oliveira (tied for eighth in MASL with ten assists) and arena legend Chiles (tied for fourth in MASL with 17 goals; tied for fifth with 24 points; tied for eighth with a 2.4 points-per-game avg.), shot-stopper Boris Pardo (tied for first in MASL with a 3.50 goals against avg.) has been playing a stellar campaign and defender Felipe Gonzalez has impressed with goals and assists of late.

Home side Ontario features Adrien Perez (leads MASL with 20 goals; tied for fifth in points-per-game avg. with 2.7; tied for fifth with 24 points) and Juan Carlos Gonzalez (18 points). Recent acquisition and ex-Sockers defender Quiroz (tied for ninth in MASL with a 2.3 points-per-game avg.) has shined with four tallies and three assists in his first three appearances. Goalkeeper Toth is third in the league in both goals-against average (4.35) and saves percentage (.736).

While the Fury has dropped all three of its meetings with the Sockers this season, they battled the four-time league champs to close affairs each time, including two one-goal decisions away from home (one in overtime) during the recent stretch of disappointing results.

Concluded Toth, “If we can frustrate them defensively and score goals on the counter, we have a good chance. That’s what we did in the games at San Diego and I think we should have won both. We made things difficult for them by playing tough one-on-one defense and working for each other, and then we’d get a goal and another goal and we’d see their heads drop a bit. But if it turns out we need to control the game, we’re not afraid of that either. I’m confident in our squad and that we can give them a real a run for it.”

The Ontario Fury takes on division-leading rival San Diego on Thursday, February 7. Tickets to all Fury home games at Citizens Business Bank Arena may be purchased by by clicking here or by calling 909-457-0252.