Preview: Showdown in Sactown

Sacramento Gold FC is back home and looking to extend its early winning streak. To do so, they will have to get past a rival bent on avenging a March defeat to Sacramento. Can the Gold take down the Sol again? Here's a preview of tomorrow night's game.

Top Tier Task

It's another clash of the titans. The Gold and Sol are not only the two most successful clubs in the NPSL's West Region, but two of the top clubs in the entire league. Each club has won a national championship and at least one of the two clubs has taken part in every single West Region title game since 2007. Both clubs have fielded future professional players in the past and some of the best future prospects reside on both rosters. A Sacramento-Sonoma is always a top tier showdown.

Because of this, each club has to be at the top of their game to walk away the winner. The latest game between the two was no exception. After Sacramento took an early lead, Sonoma's offense began firing on all cylinders, threatening the Gold goal throughout the rest of the game. The Sacramento defense had to be impenetrable, which is exactly what it was. The Gold defensive line stood tall, stopping most shots and influencing the rest enough to help goalkeeper John Connolly make a save. Sacramento won 2-0, another example of how, in order to get a win in this rivalry, a top tier effort must be made.

It Takes Two...

The scoreline of last month's matchup between the two clubs showcases... well... exactly that: two. The number 2 has not only been a symbol of the evenness of this rivalry (two most successful teams, two combined national championships, two West Region titles each since 2009), but also the winning margin in recent games between the... two. The last four times (two in Sacramento, two in Sonoma) the Gold and Sol have met, the margin of victory has been exactly two goals.

The 2014 West Region title game in California's capitol saw the Gold score two first half goals and win 2-0. in 2015, the Gold and Sol met in Sonoma for the second game of the season for both clubs. Sacramento won 3-1. Two months later, the Sol got revenge, beating Sacramento on the road by a 3-1 scoreline. Then, as mentioned above, Sacramento won its second straight game in Sonoma with a 2-0 win in what was the Gold's second game of the season. It definitely takes two to tango, but this is ridiculous. It's to-be-determined whether or not Saturday's game contributes to this trend, too.

Key Matchup

Sonoma's core midfield and forward players have good chemistry, and this is especially apparent in their play along the sidelines. In the first game between the Gold and Sol, Sonoma's 4-3-3 formation allowed for extra connections out wide, which pushed the attack further up the sidelines and created more crossing chances for their taller, more central players. Couple this with the speed of Sonoma's offense, and it's no wonder the Sol can attack quickly and effectively.

However, it ended up being Sacramento which utilized the sidelines more efficiently. With the Sol attack coming quickly from the side, it was up to the Gold's outside defenders to stop the flow. They did exactly that, getting their feet, legs, and heads in front of the ball to deflect it away or out of bounds. Standing up to pressure also allowed Sacramento to pounce on the counter attack, which it did up the sidelines. After a few chances to put the game away, the Gold's game-sealing goal came through the right sideline directly after a defensive stop. Whichever team can best utilize the sidelines to their advantage will walk away with the win in Round 2.

Stay Ahead

Last year, while Sacramento stumbled in the middle of the season, Sonoma rode an early winning streak to the Golden Gate Conference crown. This year, it's the Gold with an early streak and a growing lead on top, while the Sol did not get off to a strong start to the season. Through three games, Sonoma is 1-1-1, with five goals scored and five goals against. Meanwhile, Sacramento is looking for its fifth-straight win. The Gold will need it to keep its position as king of the hill.

Both teams are talented, dangerous, and capable of riding momentum to great heights. Once one gets an advantage over the other, they need to put them away. The Sol did it last season by putting any hope of a Gold comeback to bed. Now, it's Sacramento's turn to make a Sonoma comeback that much more difficult. It would also be good for the Gold to create more space between them and second place CD Aguiluchos USA. Will Sonoma strike back against their rivals? Will Sacramento make it 2-for-2 and solidify their shot at another conference title? We'll find out Saturday, April 30 at 7 p.m. at Capitol Christian High School.