Preview: Welcome Home

After nearly a month on the road, Sacramento Gold FC finally returns home this weekend. While the confines may be friendly, the opponent is not. Needing points to keep up in the playoff race, the Gold faces a team that's won every single game it's played so far this season. Here's a preview of tomorrow night’s match.

Dueling Point Streaks

Both Sacramento Gold FC and CD Aguiluchos USA are entering Saturday's match on nice string of points, though those points have come about in drastically different ways. For CDA, the first half of the season literally could not have gone better: six games, six wins, and 18 points. The Aguiluchos also have a comfortable 10-point lead over both Sacramento and the Sonoma County Sol on top of the Golden Gate Conference, and appear to be closing in on a playoff spot.

Meanwhile, the Gold have taken points from their last three games. While the streak began with a clear cut 3-0 win over the East Bay Stompers, it also includes two road draws. The first, against the rival Sol, saw the Gold up 3-2 late thanks to a first half hat trick from Mitre National Player of the Week Matt Wiesenfarth. However, a Sol goal in the waning minutes saw three points fell to just one. If that draw felt like a loss, the next one felt like a win. Trailing to Napa Valley 1839 in the final minute of stoppage time, Sacramento snatched a point thanks Roberto Mendoza's strike, which made the final count 2-2. It will take a big effort to keep the streak going.

Starts with "G" and Rhymes with "Coals"

Every Game Preview between Sacramento and CDA always includes this section, the one about how both teams score a lot of goals when playing each other. We understand if you want to just skip this section and head to the Key Matchup, because, once again, it's time to talk about the stupid amount of scoring that, for whatever reason, happens when these two share the field. It gets repetitive, but the numbers are so mind-bottling that they need to be mentioned.

Including the first game between the two this season, each the past seven matchups over the past three years have featured a minimum of four goals. The majority (four out of the seven) saw at least seven balls in the back of the net. About 70% of those goals (24 out of 35) have come in the second half, meaning fans are sitting on the edge of their seats throughout the game. They've also been close, with CDA holding just a +3 goal differential combined across those seven games. Saturday's contest should be no different, though the Gold need to clamp down on one critical area of their game.

Key Matchup

Rather, they need to watch out for a certain time. CDA has an explosive offense, with one of the best players in the entire NPSL (Ross Middlemiss) and the defending Golden Boot winner/current scoring leader (Simon Rawnsley) leading the charge. Between the two of them, plus the opportunities they can open up for teammates, Middlemiss and Rawnsley can ignite scoring chances in an instant. Those instances seem to be popping up at a particular period in the game.

In each of the past four meetings, CDA has scored in the opening ten minutes. Those goals have come from four different players, meaning it's not just one player the defense has to mark. Though most of the time the Gold has fought back, only once has Sacramento came out on top in the end. Those early goals set the tempo for the rest of the came and can be either momentum boosters or killers, such as the last meeting, when Sacramento's third minute lead was erased 60 minutes later. With CDA on such a hot start to the season, the Gold can't afford to give the visitors any momentum. Not giving up a goal in the first ten minutes would help.

Second Half Stretch

For both Sacramento and CDA, the second half of the season starts now. While the Aguiluchos have scorched the competition, the Gold has been average, with just a 2-2-2 record to show. Only the top two seeds in the Golden Gate Conference are guaranteed a playoff berth, and though Sacramento sits tied with Sonoma for second, the Sol have a game in hand (two counting this match). Sacramento may be facing a fire-breathing dragon this weekend, but they may have to slay it to have good odds of playing in the postseason.

Sacramento will get some help from its second half schedule. After plenty of travel in the first half of the season, four of the Gold's last six games will be at home, a welcome advantage as tired legs take their toll towards the end. Sacramento needs to take full advantage of the home crowd and lack of travel if it wants to stay in the playoff race down the stretch run. That starts this weekend. Will Sacramento find a way to snap the Aguiluchos' perfect start to the season? Will CDA make it 7-for-7 at Sacramento's expense? We'll find out at 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 13 at Capital Christian High School.