Sacramento Gold FC is back on the road, this time to face an old opponent in their new home. The Stompers have gone east, switching their home base from San Francisco to Hayward and swapping their orange and red colors for navy blue and yellow. But, will the final score change as well? Here's a preview of tomorrow night's game.
In February, the San Francisco Stompers announced an organizational rebrand and relocation. After playing its first four years of existence in San Francisco, the club headed to Hayward to become East Bay FC Stompers. In addition, the club adopted a blue and yellow color scheme, complete with a brand new crest. The significance and symbolism of these moves are not lost on those familiar with the history of the sport in the Bay Area.
The "Stompers" name is one the oldest soccer names in the Bay, beginning with the Oakland Stompers of the old North American Soccer League. The name now back in the East Bay. The old Stompers -- as well as the Oakland Clippers of the NPSL's namesake National Professional Soccer League -- wore blue and yellow. Those colors are now back in the East Bay. In addition, the club now calls CSU East Bay's Pioneer Stadium its home. The stadium was also home to FC Gold Pride, which won the 2010 Women's Premier Soccer Championship. Now, the Stompers look to bring winning ways back to the East Bay.
To do so, they will need to reverse a major historic trend. Since their first season in 2012, the Stompers have finished in last place in the Golden Gate Conference each year. Last year, the Stompers won three of four games during the middle of their season. However, while they were competitive, they also lost their first four and last four games, finishing with nine points and just those three wins. In addition, they have never qualified for a U.S. Open Cup tournament.
Against Sacramento, the results weren't any better. After the 2014 regular season finale saw the Gold win by a whopping 10-0 scoreline, the two teams opened the 2015 season in the Bay Area. John Connolly stopped 15 shots and Manolo Piña scored twice in a 3-0 Sacramento win. The rematch in Sacramento also went the way of the Gold, this time by a score of 3-1. Sacramento holds a historically dominant edge over the Stompers, and with the Gold's hot start to this season and the Stompers on a two-game losing streak, they look to keep it going. However, doing so won't be easy.
As mentioned earlier, lost in the losses are the Stompers' competitiveness and skill. Despite a rough start to the season, the Stompers fought back and took three games, including a stunning 4-0 win over a Real San Jose squad which was fighting for first place in the conference. Their two one-goal losses during that stretch came on the road against the eventual Golden Gate winners Sonoma County Sol and West Region champs CD Aguiluchos USA. The losing streak to end the season came after they were eliminated from playoff contention.
They got off to a strong start this season with a 2-0 road win over San Jose. The game was an indicator of how good they can be, as well as how good some of their prospects are. Arguably the best of their prospects is forward Khalid Arramdani, who showcased his speed in scoring the Stompers' first goal of the season. The Morocco native and junior college All-American can provide a speedy spark to the Stompers offense, and containing him will be priority No. 1 for Sacramento's defensive line. Containing Arramdani will be crucial to keeping the trend going and getting the Gold its fourth-straight win.
Begin a Better Ending
Sacramento has started the 2016 season with three wins in four games, a feat the Gold also accomplished last season. However, there is one major difference: Sacramento sits atop the Golden Gate Conference standings, whereas it was in second in 2015. Following last year's 3-1 start, Sacramento earned only two points in the next three games, dropping them out of conference title contention. The Gold will look to make sure this year's hot start doesn't get derailed.
The Gold begins their quest for a better ending in unfamiliar territory against a team bent on making it anything otherwise. The Stompers want to break a long-standing trend in their new home, with new colors and a desire to make the East Bay's old winning ways new again. Can Sacramento get three valuable points with a pair of crucial games on the horizon? Will the Stompers catch the Gold looking ahead and use their speed and quickness to take the three points from themselves? Which team will begin to write a better ending? We'll find out Saturday, April 23 at 5 p.m. at Pioneer Stadium.