Tonight, Sacramento Gold FC returns from its post-Northwest road trip bye week for its first home game in three weeks. The Gold will play host to the San Francisco Stompers, who have seen their form rise in the past month of play.
After a mid-season stumble, Sacramento needs to finish strong in the final third of the season to clinch a playoff berth. Though San Francisco is on the outside looking in, their skill is enough to worry any potential playoff team.
A lot has changed since these two first met in the season opener. Will recent form buck a historical trend, or can Sacramento do enough to keep the balance of power? We'll find out at 7 p.m. at Capital Christian High Schoool. Here's a preview of tonight's game.
GG Conf: 2nd
Goals Scored: 18
Goals Against: 13
Points per Game: 1.75
Last 5 Games: L-T-T-L-W
Head-to-Head (2015): 1-0
2014 Matchups: 3-0
GG Conf: 5th
Goals Scored: 17
Goals Against: 23
Points per Game: 1.00
Last 5 Games: W-W-L-W-L
Head-to-Head (2015): 0-1
2014 Matchups: 0-3
Through nearly four seasons of competition, Sacramento has only lost to San Francisco once (1-0 at Kezar Stadium in the Stompers' inaugural 2012 season) and drawn just once. The dominance was reflected in the season-ending showdown last year, a whopping 10-0 drubbing by the Gold which set a NPSL season high for largest margin of victory.
The two also have vastly different histories. Sacramento has always been near the top of the West Region since winning the national championship in 2010. The Gold is trying to return to the national semifinals for the second year in a row. San Francisco, meanwhile, has yet to make the playoffs or a U.S. Open Cup, finishing no higher than fifth in conference play in any year.
If San Francisco wants to buck history, former NPSL Player of the Week Khalid Arramdani will have to lead the charge. The 21-year-old Moroccan-born forward has been the driving force behind the Stomper surge, scoring an impressive 11 goals on the season so far, including a 19-minute hat trick in San Francisco's last win.
The Gold defense, which has held opponents to one goal just once in the last five games, will have its hands full with Arramdani. They did a good job of that in the season opener. Arramdani was held scoreless, and a flare of temper led to a card and an first half sub for the San Francisco striker. Plus, opposing attackers always have a tough task with Sacramento goalkeeper John Connolly.
Preventing Potential Change
It was been a while since these two teams met in the season opener back on March 28. Two goals in the first 10 minutes by Manolo Piña, as well as a Player of the Week performance by Connolly, helped the Gold to a comfortable 3-0 win over the hosts at Lowell High School.
Since then, Sacramento and San Francisco have twice gone in opposite directions. The Gold broke out of the gate with three wins in three games, while the Stompers lost their first four. However, San Francisco has since won three out of five, including a 4-0 thrashing of Real San Jose. Meanwhile, Sacramento entered a stretch which saw just two points from four games, recently broken with a thrilling 4-3 win over FC Tacoma 253.
The Gold knows a strong final push is needed to play in the postseason. The Stompers know they can give any team in conference a game. Is recent form a sign of a potential upsent, or did Sacramento's will win over Tacoma spark fire for the final four games? We'll find out tonight at 7 p.m. at Capital Christian High School.