(Photo by Vanessa S. Nelson)
Sacramento Gold FC's fight for the postseason continues with an opportunity to claim three huge points this weekend. But, they'll be up against an opponent yet to taste defeat all season. Here's a preview of tomorrow’s match.
Sacramento will be looking to keep up the momentum gained in last weekend's 4-0 win over Napa Valley 1839. Those three points had been long-awaited -- the victory was the Gold's first in nearly two months. The shower of goals also added up to the squad's highest offensive output of the season. Another good performance Sunday would build even more momentum, not only putting Sacramento in playoff position, but starting a potential postseason journey on a roll.
To keep their streak going, the Gold will have to snap arguably the most impressive streak in the entire NPSL. CD Aguiluchos USA have not lost a game all season, going 8-0-1, including a 4-3 win over Sacramento back in April. The goals and wins have already clinched the Golden Gate Conference title for CDA, whose focus is now on maintaining the top position in the West Region for home field advantage in the playoffs. However, that record would be a perfect 9-0-0 if not for the Gold, the only team to earn a point against CDA all year thanks to a 1-1 draw last month. Can Sacramento take it one step further and give the Aguiluchos their first loss?
A Lot of Goa... WAIT WHAT?!?
For seven straight games across the past three seasons, Sacramento and CDA put on offensive displays and shootouts that have ranked among the best and most potent games in the entire league. Every one featured a minimum of four goals. Most of them featured at least seven, with 70% of those goals coming the second half. Putting gold and orange together on green has proven to be a simple equation that leads to a multitude of high-scoring matchups.
However, that stretch of scoring came to a somewhat shocking end in the most recent showdown, which ended with a paltry two goals combined, one in each half. Lost in the loss of offense was the fact that other constants -- physicality, intensity, attrition -- that had not only been in those past seven matchups (and in plenty more in the past) were also there in the eighth. Across those eight games, CDA holds a mere +3 goal differential, and most of the outcomes have been in doubt until the final moments. Considering the stakes in Sunday's showdown, that streak looks like it'll emerge intact.
(Photo by Vanessa S. Nelson)
Of course, a big factor that may have led to the comparatively cold offensive output was the fact that both rosters were missing key offensive pieces. Sacramento was without Matt Wiesenfarth, who leads the Gold with nine goals (including two hat tricks), while the Aguiluchos were missing Ross Middlemiss, their captain and attacking talisman. The two play different roles for their teams, but bring immediate improvement to both rosters whenever they play.
They are also half of dynamic duos on the offensive end. For Sacramento, Danny Cuevas can definitely score his fare share of goals. But, he also orchestrates the Gold offense with superb dribbling and passing, springing his teammates open for goals (including Wiesenfarth's first last week, set up by a great Cuevas header). Meanwhile, Middlemiss, a wizard with his feet himself, plays the roll of the engine in the Aguiluchos machine (and scores plenty on his own), often finding his favorite target, Simon Rawnsley, for plenty of strikes. Whichever pair can best make their mark on the match will put their team in the best position to win.
Pushing for the Postseason
Though CDA's postseason position is secure, Sacramento's is not. However, recent results have put the Gold back in position to control its destiny for the second and final playoff spot. Sacramento sits in second place in the Golden Gate Conference with 13 points, while the Sonoma County Sol and East Bay Stompers tied for third with ten points (though they each have a game in hand). While a loss wouldn't spell doom for the Gold, they would need fortunes to break their way again. A win, however, would increase the chances of a postseason berth significantly.
Sacramento ends it season at home against the Stompers, while the Sol still has to travel to face Aguiluchos. In addition, East Bay and Sonoma still have to face each other again. Depending on results, the Gold could face a "win-and-you're-in" scenario in its regular season finale. That ideal situation would only happen with a win over Aguiluchos, something that will not come easy. Will Sacramento be the first team to top the unbeaten Aguiluchos and score three invaluable points? Will CDA remain unblemished and send the Gold to more uncertainty? We'll find out at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 18 at Burrell Field.