SANTA ROSA, Calif. – Two goals were enough for Sacramento Gold FC, as the defense stood strong and preserved a 2-0 win over the Sonoma County Sol Saturday at Santa Rosa High School.
Sacramento started the scoring in the 14th minute. Jose Martinez sent a ball through the midfield to Manolo Piña on the right side. Piña beat Sonoma goalkeeper Arturo Ornelas, but his shot bounced off the crossbar. The Gold was able to quickly recover the ball, which eventually found Piña on the top left of the box. Piña laid it off to Gonzalez, who fired it past a diving Ornelas and into the bottom corner of the net for a 1-0 Sacramento lead.
It took until the 83rd minute for the Gold to put the game away. After the back line stopped shot after shot from the Sol, Danny Lomeli sent a beautiful through ball to Josue Araiza on the right side. Ornelas came out to defend, but Araiza was able to side-step him, slot the ball into the net, and make it a 2-0 count.
Sonoma pushed hard to get on the board, but despite waves of attack, the Gold defense held up. Sacramento goalkeeper John Connolly stopped every shot which managed to get by the stingy defensive line. Not that the Gold offense didn’t create several chances.
Alex Bettencourt was able to deflect a pass in the 29th minute straight to Martinez, who immediately found Piña to the right of the box. Piña swerved around the defender and sent the ball towards the center, but it was knocked away by the defense.
The clearance led to an immediate counterattack by the Sol. Though the Gold defense was able to slow down the Sonoma forward, Michel Arroyo sent a rocket towards goal, the ball striking the crossbar and bouncing out.
Three minutes later, Sonoma got its best chance of the game. Ibrham Eladouli managed to squirm by the defense and make a run down the left side. Connolly came out to defend, but Eladouli was able to get around him. However, Eladouli’s shot was wide left.
The Gold got a couple of chances to double its lead right before halftime. In the 42nd minute, some crafty play by Sacramento’s midfield set up Piña in the center of the box. However, Orlenas was up to the task, deflecting the shot wide for a corner.
Two minutes later, the Gold was awarded a free kick about 35 yards from goal. Martinez stepped up to take the kick, sending a blazing blast barely wide right of the goal.
Sacramento nearly jumped on a chance early in the second half. In the 54th minute, Piña sent a perfect cross to Martinez in the center of the box. Martinez, alone, couldn’t get the ball properly on his feet and sent his shot wide right.
After a series of stops by the Gold defense, Sacramento got a breakaway in the 67th minute. Danny Mititelu sent a through ball up top to Chimdum Mez, who timed his run well enough to leave the Sonoma back line standing still. However, Ornelas came up big, stopping the one-on-one chance.
Sonoma took that momentum and turned it into the longest wave of offensive pressure of the entire game. The Sol got in position to make a play several times over 15 minutes, but the Gold defense – whether it be Rene Piña, Zach Ulrich, Fernando De Alba, Erick Vega, or any of the other offensive players coming back to mark – was always able to get a foot on it and block the final pass.
Eventually, Sacramento was able to catch Sonoma out of position when Lomeli found Araiza late to seal the game.
Sonoma still had a handful of chances to break the shutout. In the 86th minute, the Sol got the ball in the box, where it bounced around precariously. Connolly saw an opening, leaped out, and snatched it out of the air. Then, in stoppage time, Taylor Varnedore got on the end of a cross and hit it at goal, though the shot missed wide. The Sol won the ball back in the goal kick, with Arroyo sending a bullet towards goal. However, Vega was able to get his head on it and deflect it away.
Sacramento return home and prepare to host CD Aguiluchos USA on Saturday, April 2. The action gets underway at 7 p.m. at Capital Christian High School.
LINEUPS/SUBSTITUTIONS: Sacramento Gold FC: G John Connolly, D Rene Piña, Zach Ulrich, Fernando De Alba (Cesar Sosa 79’), Erick Vega, M Diego De Alba (Danny Mititelu 46’), Andrew Robles (Danny Lomeli 46’), Alex Bettencourt (Sammy Gonzalez 61’), Nico Gonzalez, F Jose Martinez (Josue Araiza 75’), Manolo Piña (Chimdum Mez 63’)
Sonoma County Sol: G Arturo Ornelas, D Ebby Lombardi, Taylor Varnedore, Justin Ferrera, Edgar Amadore, M Simon Wheatly (Pedro Guerra 55’), Sean Callihan, Michel Arroyo, F Nico Spann (Arnaldo Salizar 73’), Ivan Barba (Jonathan Villeda 70’), Ibrham Eladouli
SAC – Nico Gonzalez (Manolo Piña) 14’
SAC – Josue Araiza (Danny Lomeli) 83’
SAC – Cuco Martinez (Hard Foul) 19’
SAC – Zach Ulrich (Hard Foul) 22’
SON – Michel Arroyo (Hard Foul) 68’
MAN OF THE MATCH:
SAC – G John Connolly/D Zach Ulrich