(Photo by Vanessa S. Nelson)
Sacramento Gold FC is back from its first bye week of the 2017 NPSL season with a chance to claw back from a slow start. They’re opponent is in a slide of their own, though anything can happen in this rivalry. Here's a preview of tomorrow night’s match.
Rest and Reward
Four games into the regular season, and Sacramento was already feeling the grind. With multiple players battling injuries, the bye week could not have come soon enough. The first part of the season was going to be the rough one, with games eight of the first nine weekends. The final third should provide some relief – three bye weeks across four games. However, good results and plenty of points are needed now, so any potential hole is not too big to climb out of.
Performances like the last one will go a long way to making that happen. After only winning one of its first three games to start to the season, the Gold rebounded with a solid 3-0 win over the East Bay Stompers, which included a potential Goal of the Year candidate from Danny Lomeli. With six goals in the last two games, the final part of an already strong offense – the finishing – appears to be rounding into form. Now, the spoils of a pre-bye week win (momentum and confidence) look to be carried over into the next stretch of the season. However, this stretch may prove to be the toughest one this season.
Hitting the Road
Three of Sacramento’s next four games will take place away from the friendly confines of Capital Christian High School. That starts Saturday against the rival Sonoma County Sol and their new stadium at Casa Grande High School in Petaluma. The very next week, the Gold will make its second ever trip to wine country against Napa Valley 1839. Then, after facing off against CD Aguiluchos USA at home, Sacramento will pack up and head to Hayward for another showdown with the Stompers.
It's definitely a challenging part of the schedule. However, the Gold has proven itself to be a team of road warriors in recent years. Across the last three seasons, Sacramento has a 9-6 on the road in NPSL regular season play, and 10-7 across all competitions. In addition, Sacramento has road wins against the Sol in each of the past two seasons, while only one team in the Golden Gate Conference (Aguiluchos) has won more than one game against the visiting Gold in that time frame. Sacramento will need to show more of that prowess to power through the second third of the season.
(Photo by Vanessa S. Nelson)
As mentioned earlier, Sacramento’s offense has been getting better with each game. It hadn’t been a big issue, though one aspect hampered the Gold, particularly last season. Though Sacramento would dominate possession and create plenty of chances to score, the finishing proved to be an Achilles Heel last season, particularly towards the end. Now, with a recent scoring surge, the Gold is hoping to put plenty more balls in the back of their rivals’ net Saturday.
But, it won’t be easy. During the season opener between the two clubs, Sonoma’s counterattack proved to be the perfect antidote to Sacramento’s possession dominance. However, that counter style does not work from behind, and the Gold has gotten better at getting ahead. Matt Wiesenfarth’s poaching style paid off against the Stompers, with two goals. Danny Cuevas, Ivan Gutierrez, and Roberto Mendoza have also found their scoring touch recently. They’ll have to go it again Saturday to take away one of Sonoma’s more potent threats, and force the Sol to deal with one of their own.
Fighting for Position
Sacramento and Sonoma started off on different paths, but have already come back to relatively the same spot. The Sol sit in second place in the Golden Gate Conference, one point ahead of the third place Gold. However, while Sacramento is coming off a dominating win, Sonoma has only one point in its last two games, a home loss to Aguiluchos followed by a disappointing draw with Napa. A Gold win would carry the momentum for both clubs, and swap places.
It could also prove to be worth valuable points come the end of the season. Only the top two teams in the conference are guaranteed a playoff berth in the West Region. Aguiluchos have raced to an undefeated start and a large early lead, and there’s already distance from fourth and fifth place Napa and East Bay. Second may come down to Sonoma and Sacramento, and every point between them is critical Will the Gold get some payback and leapfrog their rivals? Will the Sol make it two-for-two against Sacramento? We'll find out at 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 29 at Casa Grande High School.