SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The Stage was set Saturday night at River City High School in West Sacramento for the Sacramento Gold and Sonoma Sol as the largest crowd of the year poured into the stadium to watch the highly anticipated main event.
Anxieties were high as both teams took the pitch. Anyone knowing the competitive history of these teams already knew that it was going to be a battle till the end and that is exactly what it was.
The Gold played an almost flawless match showing great discipline from every player and that's what it took to beat a very good Sol team.
Both teams played very cautiously for the beginning 15 minutes as neither team gave away much space in their back lines and most of the game took place at mid field. Both teams tackled well but it was the Gold who began to slowly build an attack and began challenging the Sol defenders to make big tackles or clearances.
It wasn't till the 26th minute of the match that the Gold struck first. Manolo Pina took a ball just past half field from Gold midfielders after a string of passes from the back and through the midfield. Manolo carried the ball with pace changing directions several times to shake off Sol defenders. Manolo then found a streaking Jason Jones on a long diagonal driven pass to the right side of the attacking third.
Jason calmly trapped the ball out in front of him, picked up his head and crossed a perfect driven ball to Jose "Cuco" Martinez who was sprinting through the Sol penalty area. There was no hesitation or flinch as Cuco met the ball with his head in full sprint. The ball was buried in the back of the net in a blink of an eye. It was a picture perfect build up and finish for a Gold goal.
The Gold held ground as Sonoma began to press a little harder to try and equalize the game. In the 30th minute, Manolo Pina was injured on a slide tackle from a Sol defender trailing him. Manolo attempted to return but was not able to and was replaced by Eliot Chambers who became a handful for Sol defenders to try and contain for the remainder of the game.
In the 37th minute of play, with a man down, the Gold struck again. Cuco found Jason Jones after a combination pass from Ernesto Carranza and Nico Gonzalez. The pass was temporarily intercepted but then coughed back out to Jason Jones who turned and dribbled right at the Sol's lone center back.
Jason turned the player a few times switching the ball to opposite feet then dribbled by the unbalanced defender. Before the keeper was able to set his feet to attempt a save, Jason pushed a shot with the outside of his foot past the keeper. The ball was in the back of the net as Jason did a somersault back-flip to celebrate with his teammates.
The Sol looked winded as the Gold continued to keep possession with stellar play from Diego De Alba and the Gold defensive line of Zach Ulrich, Fernando De Alba, Danny Mititelu and Rene Pina. John Connolly, Gold Keeper, kept the team organized and made a few saves to keep the net clean to end the first half.
As the game progressed into the second half, Sonoma pressed the Gold but didn't make much of a threat as the Gold began to look more dangerous after every counter attack and nearly scored a third goal on a few opportunities.
The game remained deadlocked as the Sol fought to try and find a goal by pressing numbers higher and hitting long balls into the box. After four minutes of injury time, the final whistle blew and the Gold were crowned NPSL West Region Champions.
Lineup: Goalkeeper: Connolly; Defenders: R. Pina, Ulrich, Mititelu, F. De Alba; Midfielders: D. De Alba, Carranza (Vega), Gonzalez, Martinez (Prado); Forwards: Jones, M. Pina (Chambers)
The Gold will be travelling to Chattanooga TN to take on Chattanooga FC the South Region Champions in a national semi-final game this Saturday evening at 7:30.