Sacramento Gold FC gets its 2015 NPSL Playoffs campaign underway Saturday night against the visiting FC Tacoma 253. It will the the Northwest Conference champion's first playoff appearance in its first year of existence, while Sacramento will be making its third consecutive postseason appearance and fith in its six years as a club.
It will also be the third time these two teams will meet this season, with the Gold coming out on top the first two times. Both teams have not met in two months. While a lot has changed, those who do not learn from history are doomed to (rather, hopefully will, in this case) repeat it. Let's take a look back at the regular season matchups between the two squads.
Sun, April 12: FC Tacoma 1 @ Sacramento Gold 3
SAC – Josue Araiza (Fernando Cabadas) 39’
SAC – Josue Araiza (Andrew Robles) 77’
FCT – Andres Ruiz Gama 85’
SAC – Cuco Martinez (Ali Radmand) 88’
The two teams first met in Sacramento's regular season home opener. Capital Christian High School was a welcome sight for Sacramento, which had started the season with two road games, including a tough win at rival Sonoma County Sol. Tacoma was looking for its first win of the season after losses to CD Aguiluchos USA and Sonoma. The latter had taken place the night before.
Both teams had good opportunities to score early on, though they could not convert. However, the next chance would not come until the 36th minute, when Tacoma's Pedro Millan got space in the Gold box. While Sacramento's Anthony Gallo was able to meet the challenge, he came out worse for wear.
While he was being tended to, both teams went to the sidelines for a water break. The break did the home squad good, as Sacramento scored a few minutes later. Josue Araiza jumped on a Fernando Cabadas cross and poked the ball into the net to put the hosts up 1-0.
The goal opened up the offenses in the second half. Both teams came close to adding to the scoreboard, with Sacramento goalkeeper John Connolly saving a diving header and Tacoma goalkeeper Elmer Rodriguez stretching out to make a corner save (though he suffered a nasty collision with the left post).
In the 77th minute, Sacramento's Cucu Martinez used a bit of skill to free up Andrew Robles in the left side of the box. Robles spotted Araiza running towards goal and waited for his teammate to get in range before feeding the midfielder. Araiza calmly slotted it home to double the host's lead.
The visitors managed to pull one back in the 85th minute. A shot on goal by Jose Ramos hit the post, but the ball found Andres Ruiz Gama, who snuck it past Connolly on the right side to make it a 2-1 game. But three minutes later, Ali Radmand sent a beautiful ball from the left side to Martinez, who took a dribble and hit it by Rodriguez make it a 3-1 win.
Sun, May 17: Sacramento Gold 4 @ FC Tacoma 3
FCT – Sergio Martinez (Pedro Millan) 1’
SAC – Manolo Piña (Penalty Kick) 12’
FCT – Steven Wright (Matt Shaxton) 43’
SAC – Johnny Muresan (Josue Araiza) 52’
FCT – Pedro Millan (Sergio Martinez) 59’
SAC – Manolo Piña (Unassisted) 65’
SAC – Manolo Piña (Abrahm Prado) 86’
The two teams met again at Starfire Sports Complex looking for anything positive. Since their win over Tacoma in April, Sacramento had earned just two points in their next four games. Tacoma, meanwhile, had rebounded with a win over the San Francisco Stompers. However, they had lost three straight since then, including a 3-0 thumping by Sonoma the night before. The Gold had also been in action the night before, losing a tough 2-1 contest to Portland Spartans FC.
The game proved to be Sacramento's craziest of the season so far. The hosts kicked things off in the opening minute when Sergio Martinez got free on the left side. Martinez caught the visitors starting slow, slotting a shot just past the fingertips of Sacramento goalkeeper Max Herrera to put Tacoma up 1-0.
Sacramento got back into it about ten minutes later when Cabadas was tripped up in the box in the 11th minute. The whistle blew and, 60 seconds later, Manolo Piña tied the game from the penalty spot.
Tacoma retook the lead just before halftime when Steven Wright sent a screamer off left post and in. But Sacramento fought back early in the second half. Araiza lofted a ball into the box which Tacoma goalkeeper Wallis Lapsey could not field. Johnny Mureson cleaned up the rebound to tie the game at 2-2 in the 52nd minute.
The home squad took the lead again soon after. Martinez sent a ball across the face of goal right to Millan, who headed it in. The lead would last just six minutes, as Piña took advantage of a Tacoma turnover in the box and poked the ball by Lapsey to tie it at 3-3.
Tacoma nearly took a fourth lead in the 74th minute. Eli Gordley got on the end of a cross and seemed to send a perfect header into the left of the goal. However, Herrera leapt to his right and made a diving save to deny the hosts.
In the end, it was Piña third goal (with four minutes left in regulation) who finally put Sacramento in the lead. Cuco Martinez sent a ball into the box, where Araiza headed it to the penalty spot. Piña crashed the box, smashing it home to put the Gold up and sealed a 4-3 win.
Sat, July 11: FC Tacoma @ Sacramento Gold
Both teams are heading into the third meeting with polar opposite streaks as they did before the second. Sacramento closed out the regular season with three wins in its final four games to clinch second place in the Golden Gate Conference, the 4-seed in the West Region, and a home playoff game in the first round.
Tacoma, meanwhile, essentially needed to win out in order to have a shot at the postseason. They did exactly what they needed to do, winning their final three games, including two critical games over Portland, to claim the Northwest crown and the 5-seed.
Sacramento and Tacoma have changed a lot since their wild meeting in Tukwila nearly two months ago. Will the result change as well? With both teams having two weeks off to prepare for the playoffs, it's anyone's guess as to how the third meeting will go.
It's incredibly difficult to beat the same team three times in a season. The Gold will look to do so on Saturday, July 11 at 7 p.m. at Capital Christian High School.