Preview: Sunday Afternoon in San Leandro

Sacramento Gold FC got its first win of the 2017 NPSL season last weekend, and is hoping to get its second in a rare Sunday match. The Gold will be on the road again, this time in the Bay Area against one of the strongest teams in the West Region. Here's a preview of tomorrow afternoon's match.

Wine Country Winners

After stumbling in its season opener, the Gold got in the win column in Week 2. Traveling to Wine County for its first ever match against the Golden Gate Conference newcomers, Napa Valley 1839, Sacramento's offense once again held a big edge in possession. This time, the goals followed, with Philip Bru and the Gold defense shutting out Napa for a 2-0 win. It was a solid performance in front of an frenzied away crowd numbering in the four digits.

That crowd was twice as loud the week before, for Napa's inaugural NPSL matchup. It got even louder less than 10 minutes into the first half, when the 1839 took the lead. However, once their opponents got going, it was tough to stop them. Despite CD Aguiluchous USA being brought down to ten men thanks to a red card, they scored twice and held on to send the crowd home upset after a failed debut. Having already felled the new guys, Sacramento and CDA now set their sights on each other. Those familiar with these two teams know to expect much more than a simple pair of goals.

Get Ready for Goals

Sacramento and CDA both feature offenses which can get going at any moment. Though each team has put up big goal totals in several games, few games on the schedule have turned into goal fests. Except, that is, when they play each other. Not only do the offenses explode, but they constantly feature final scores unheard of in soccer games. For some reason, the formula of gold + orange leads to consistent games of goals galore. Here are some examples.

Since 2015, Sacramento and CDA have played six times. Each game has featured a minimum of four goals, and three of the past four games have seen at least seven goals scored. Those four games have especially been turned up to 11 in the second half, with 21 of of those 28 goals coming in the final 45 minutes. Even the two games which didn't see asinine levels of scoring included a near brawl and an eight-minute hat trick. The matchups have also been fairly even, with CDA holding a slim 3-2-1 edge record-wise and only a combined +2 goal differential. In short, games between the Gold and Aguiluchos have been offensive, (occasionally) feisty, and close. Sunday should be fun.

Key Matchup

In last week's game preview, the key matchup was the Gold defense against Napa striker Bryan Marin, an attacking threat capable of putting balls in the back of the net or unlocking a defense with precision passing. Marin was compared to CDA's Ross Middlemiss, one of the biggest offensive forces in the entire league, and it was written that Marin needed a Simon Rawnsley, a deadly second striker who could receive those passes and score his own goals. Well, this week, Sacramento gets to face the real thing.

This is nothing new. Middlemiss is a former NPSL Player of the Year and Rawnsley is the defending NPSL Golden Boot winner. Both have made their presence felt against the Gold. Nine of the 12 Aguiluchos goals against Sacramento last season came courtesy of either Middlemiss or Rawnsley, with two of the others being assisted by the CDA's stars. Stopping them is nearly impossible, while containing them is an extremely tough task. But, that's the task of the Gold defense on Sunday. If they can hold the home team long enough (and not give up an early goal), then the Gold offense can develop without needing to make a big comeback.

Early Test

For the second straight season, Sacramento began its NPSL season with a loss. Last year, the Gold dropped a frustrating game to Real San Jose, but rebounded with five straight wins. Game two of the year featured a trip to wine country (Sonoma), while game three saw a battle with the Aguiluchos. The Gold won and passed an early test of mettle. This year, the opener was a tough loss to the rival Sonoma County Sol. Game two was a win in wine country (Napa). Game three's opponent? The Aguiluchos.

It's another early test of character, with even bigger stakes. A win would pull Sacramento even with Sonoma and CDA atop the Golden Gate Conference standings, while a second loss would put the Gold in an early hole that would be tough to dig out of. With even more teams in the West Region this year and the top two conference spots even more valuable when it comes to playoff prospects, every point county. Will Sacramento get its second win in a row on the road? Will CDA give the Gold extra early season adversity? We'll find out at 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 9 at Burrell Field.