Sacramento Gold FC returns to Capital Christian High School after earning their first victory of the season last weekend. Now, the Gold looks for its first win on home turf this season against CD Aguiluchos USA. Sacramento will also be looking for an early chance to get a bitter taste out of its mouth, a taste its had since July. Here's a preview of Saturday night's game.
Sacramento Seeks Payback
The Gold has been waiting over eight months to get revenge on Aguiluchos for the way last season ended. Only one scenario in last year's NSPL playoffs would have seen Sacramento host the 2015 West Region Final, and it's the one which happened. The Gold -- playing in its third straight regional final -- took on Aguiluchos, a team Sacramento had beaten 3-1 on the road the month before. Everything was playing in Sacramento's favor.
Except, as it turned out, the actual game. Sacramento was shut out in the first half and soon found itself down 2-0 early in the second half. The Gold fought back to tie the game, but gave up two more goals quickly afterwards. Sacramento managed to get within one late and nearly sent it to extra time in the game's dying moments. However, it was not to be, and the No. 6 seed Aguiluchos won the West. Demons spawned from the result and have haunted Sacramento through the summer, fall, and winter. Now in spring, the Gold hope to exorcise them early.
The extra tension will only add to what is likely to be a heated environment on the field. Sacramento and Aguiluchos have history from years past, with last year's matchups proving to be worthy of their own chapter. Though the game in Oakland proved to be a relatively clean affair, the two contests in California's capitol city were extremely physical. The second could be explained by the playoff stakes. The first might has well have been a Civil War battle.
Tempers were already hot with memories of an incident in Oakland from the prior season which ended with police having to escort the Gold off the field. By the end of their first 2015 clash, both teams were battered and bloodied. Eight cards were issued, including a red one. But, the highlight came in stoppage time, when CDA's Miguel Santiago (literally) tackled one Gold player to the ground, headbutted another while being separated, and then headbutted a third after the final whistle. Strangely, no cards were issued for this incident. Let's hope it doesn't get as heated this time.
Another constant in the three games between these two last season was the consistent threat of Ross Middlemiss. The man in possession of the ball above -- and also a former NPSL Player of the Year and All-NPSL first team member -- moved over to Aguiluchos from the Sonoma County Sol last season and was nothing but productive for his new club. If last year is any indication, his play will be directly linked with the outcome of the game.
In the first game (a 2-2 draw), Middlemiss was effective. He was relatively held in check (other than a late goal) in the Gold's 3-1 win the second time around. The third and final matchup, Middlemiss was the Man of the Match, creating everything from the midfield and fueling his team's 4-3 victory. The Gold defense has been stellar through two games this season, holding off a barrage of offensive pressure last week against the Sol. This time, their main concern will be one man. But, it may prove to be an even harder task.
Keep the Momentum
Momentum is always crucial, including in the early part of the season. Sacramento started off the season with a the-ball-just-won't-go-in-the-back-of-the-net game, a 1-0 loss against Real San Jose. However, the Gold was able to reverse the momentum one week later, finding multiple goals and earning a tough, but well-deserved, road win. Now, the Gold must keep the good momentum going into the season's first bye week with a home win.
Meanwhile, Aguiluchos are in a nearly identical situation to the one the Gold faced last week. CDA's season opener was a home game against San Jose. They went down and, though they were able to equalize, had to settle for one point. They'll be looking to reverse their momentum with a tough road win. Sound familiar? Can the Gold earn payback and three more points headed into the break? Will Aguiluchos follow in their opponents' path and make the taste even more bitter? We'll find out Saturday, April 2 at 7 p.m. at Capital Christian High School.