Sacramento Gold FC kicks off its regular season home schedule on Sunday at 3 p.m. While the Gold will welcome supporters to its new home field, Capital Christian High School, it will also play host to a brand new opponent.
Before the Gold gets acquainted with its newest challenge, take some time to learn about the visitors from up north. In the first of a season-long series, “Know Your Opponent,” find out more about Sacramento’s Sunday foe, FC Tacoma 253.
City: Tacoma, WA
Stadium: Starfire Sports Complex
Owner: Giuseppe Pezzano
Head Coach: Filippo Milano
Founded in 2014, FC Tacoma 253 was created to bring a strong, powerful presence to what’s been described as one of the big soccer hotbeds in the United States. That presence has a distinct Italian flavor, which comes from the top down. Owner Giuseppe Pezzano is the former owner of Fiesole Caldine Firenze, a historic soccer team in the Tuscany region of Italy.
Pezzano brings along a front office and coaching staff, including head coach Filippo Milano, with unquestionable soccer credentials and Italian background. The club is also supported by ACF Fiorentina, which provides Tacoma with a proven Italian methodology in training. It’s not a bad thing – only Brazil has won more world cups than Italy.
This isn’t to say The City of Destiny has completely outsourced its work overseas. The club operates under Seattle’s OSA Soccer Academy, of which Pezzano is president. The club has affiliated itself with longstanding local club AC Seattle at both the top and youth levels of Western Washington soccer.
The club also benefits from the surrounding soccer city. Tacoma is located just outside of Seattle, an emerging soccer power in the U.S. The Seattle Sounders are one of Major League Soccer’s top teams and feature names such as United States Men’s National Team star Clint Dempsey and Nigerian talent Obafemi Martins.
Tacoma takes advantage of the area’s natural beauty and local architecture. The 253’s home stadium, Starfire Sports Complex, is located under the Seattle Space Needle. Having Mount Rainier in the background as well is not a problem, either.
Oussama Essabr: Tacoma’s first big signing came in the form of Moroccan talent Oussama Essabr. The Italian force is strong in this one, as Essabr benefited from a youth career at Serie A power Juventus. The forward recently made a name for himself at Prato, where he notched three goals in 12 appearances for the club. He also spent the 2014 MLS Preseason with the Montreal Impact.
Pedro Milan: The Venezuelan midfielder has emerged as Tacoma’s top goal scorer early on. After tying for the team lead in scoring during their U.S. Open Cup qualifying campaign, Milan netted the 253’s lone goal against CD Aguiluchos USA. Milan has made a living with his ball control, as well as his ability on defense.
Matt Shaxton: Center midfielder Matt Shaxton has made a name for himself both at home and abroad, whichever way you look at it. The Bridgewater, England native helped lead Hartpury College to multiple National Cup and Southern Premier Conference titles. Across the pond, Shaxton took root at CSU Bakersfield, becoming a mainstay in the Roadrunners’ midfield. Shaxton also served as captain of former NPSL club Santa Clarita Storm before moving to Tacoma.
FC Tacoma 253’s debut came in February in a U.S. Open Cup qualifying match-up against Portland Spartans FC. Knowing the importance of this debut match (the Portland-Seattle rivalry is the Northwest’s Kings-Lakers), Tacoma took care of business, using two first half goals to claim a 2-1 victory. Tacoma punched their ticket to the tournament with a 6-1 win over the San Diego Flash in March. The team will play Kitsap Pumas of the PDL in the first round.
However, success in the NPSL regular season hasn’t come as easily for Tacoma. Their first game against visiting Real San Jose ended in a 1-1 draw, with Tacoma battling back to tie after a second half deficit. The following week, Tacoma surrendered two early goals to CD Aguiluchos USA. Though they were able to score to pull within one, it wasn’t enough, as a 10-man Tacoma fell 2-1.
With just one point from two home games, the 253 will be looking for a better start to their road campaign, which begins with a back-to-back in Northern California.
2015 Season Matchups:
Sunday, April 12: Tacoma @ Sacramento, 3 p.m., Capital Christian High School
FC Tacoma is affiliated with a women’s team of the same name currently in the Women’s Premier Soccer League, the second-tier women’s league in the American Soccer Pyramid. Until late last year, the team was known as AC Seattle.
Starfire Sports Complex is also the home of Seattle Sounders FC 2, the United Soccer League (USL) affiliate of MLS’ Sounders. This is S2’s inaugural USL season, and their debut came at home against another team from the Capitol City, defending league champ Sacramento Republic FC. S2 defeated the Republic 4-2.
Both regular season meetings between the two will come at the tail end of back-to-back games. Tacoma will face the Sonoma County Sol on Saturday before playing Sacramento Sunday. The rematch will be in Tacoma on Sunday, May 17. The day before, Tacoma faces the Sol again, while the Gold head to Portland to take on Spartans FC.