With its 2016 U.S. Open Cup campaign over, Sacramento Gold FC now quickly returns to NPSL competition. Sacramento will be looking for a welcome win in its only Friday night game on the schedule. However, the Gold will have only one day's rest and will be facing a team which has given it trouble in the past and is hungry for success in the present. Here's a preview of tomorrow night's game.
No Rest for the Weary
While the benefits of participating in the U.S. Open Cup (exposure, new opponents, tournament glory, etc.) greatly outweigh the negatives, on of those down sides will rear its head Friday. Before its First Round game against the Burlingame Dragons, Sacramento only had three days of rest following its most recent NPSL game. This time around, there is only one day between games for the Gold, and the previous game was on the road in Southern California.
History shows, win or lose, the extra tournament games added to the schedule have an impact on performance in the following league game. Last weekend, days after a win over San Francisco City in the Open Cup, CD Aguiluchos USA were a near miss away from a loss to the East Bay Stompers, having to settle for a 1-1 draw. During the 2015 U.S. Open Cup, the Sonoma County Sol was knocked out in the Second Round by the Sacramento Republic. Days later, Sonoma fell to Real San Jose by a whopping 5-1, despite having beaten them 7-1 earlier in the season. The Gold's depth will be tested as it aims to not follow suit.
If Friday's matchup is anything like last season's three results between Sacramento and OSA FC, fans will definitely be entertained. In the first game, with the Gold up 1-0 late, both teams combined for three goals in 11 minutes. Sacramento got two of them and won 3-1. A month later, the two met again in Washington. OSA (then named FC Tacoma 253) scored in the opening minute and held three different leads during the game. The Gold came back each time, with Manolo Piña scoring with four minutes left to cap a hat trick and a wild 4-3 win.
The craziness from the second game may have been outdone in the third and final meeting between the two. This one took place in the first round of the 2015 NPSL Playoffs. With the season on the line, it was rinse and repeat to start, with OSA got an early goal and took two leads, but the Gold came back to tie the score each time. However, Sacramento got a red card late and had to play with ten men for extra time. The Gold managed to take the lead and hold it for a 3-2 win, but not without drama at the end. After a foul on OSA in stoppage time, a heated exchange of shoves left both teams with nine men on the field to finish the game. We'll see if any of it carries over into 2016.
As mentioned above, the Sacramento squad which played in the Open Cup will only have a day's rest before facing OSA. In contrast, the visitors from up north will have five days' rest following its last game, a scoreless draw against the Portland Spartans. In addition, this will only be OSA's fourth game of the season and first game in California this season. All of this adds to the visiting squad being well rested compared to the recently returned home team Friday.
The depth of Sacramento's roster will be thoroughly tested and could prove to be the determining factor in whether or not the Gold can get a rebound win. In the back, Andre Brown is set to return from injury. In the middle, Cesar Mendoza looks to get back into to the lineup after missing Wednesday's game. Up top, Chimdum Mez could see much more playing time than he did during the Open Cup. Other new additions and current players who haven't seen much action this season will be forced to step up as well. If they can, the Gold should be in good position to earn a welcome -- and much needed -- three points.
Stay on Top
Since the Gold last played an NPSL game, the view from the top has gotten crowded. Aguiluchos have roared into a tie with Sacramento for first place in the Golden Gate Conference at 15 points, though the Gold has a game in hand and a +9 goal differential to CDA's +8. In addition, after a rough start to its season, Sonoma has fought back to earn 10 points with a game in hand on Sacramento. A slip up by the Gold could give further life to two of its biggest rivals.
Sacramento is not the only squad in need of points tomorrow. Through three games this season, OSA only one point. Its two losses came at home against those two Gold rivals, the Sol (a heartbreaking 3-2 finish) and Aguiluchos (a 4-0 thumping). With Portland off to a hot start, OSA can't afford to get too far behind early. Both teams want and need three points, but only one will leave happy. Will the Gold bounce back despite the lack of rest? Will OSA FC pick up its first win of the season on the first leg of its first big road trip? We'll find out at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 20 at Capital Christian High School.