Around the West: Down to the Wire


Sacramento Gold FC was off this past weekend, which saw one club battle back from down 3-0 and two more get their first wins of the season. It also put the playoff picture into clearer focus. Here's a recap of last week's games, as well as a look at what's in store this week.

GOLDEN GATE CONFERENCE

HAYWARD, Calif. -- East Bay FC's late-season pursuit of a berth in the NPSL postseason came to an abrupt end Saturday night when fellow dark-horse playoff contender Sonoma County Sol came into Pioneer Stadium and handed the home side a 4-0 rout behind two goals from Diego Lopez, a resounding loss that stands as the Stompers' worst result of 2017.

"It all came down to who wanted it more," Stompers head coach Martin Sierra said. "They came out to play; we took this game light. We knew what was at stake, and we came out and didn't do what we were supposed to do."

The loss leaves East Bay FC in fourth place on the Golden Gate Conference table, five points behind second-place Sacramento Gold FC, with only a matchup between the two teams remaining on both schedules. Sonoma County leapfrogged the Stompers into third place, just three points behind Sacramento with two games remaining.

The Sol opened the scoring in the seventh minute and led 3-0 by halftime. East Bay, which looked flat at both ends of the field, was never able to control possession for long stretches and consistently attack the goal the way Sonoma County did throughout the game. By the time Lopez slipped past the Stompers defense, ran onto a ball played directly through the center circle and finished off his brace in the 78th minute, the outcome had long since ceased to be in doubt.

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(Photo by Donnie Graham/East Bay FC)

NAPA, Calif. -- Napa Valley 1839 FC, in their final home match of the season, gave the 1,100 fans in attendance at Memorial Stadium something to celebrate about on Saturday night. The lone goal of the match between the Wine Country side and CD Aguiluchos USA came via a penalty kick that Francisco Mendoza converted in the 37th minute.

The third meeting between Napa and CD Aguiluchos was an even contest with both sides having opportunities to score on numerous occasions. Napa's Eduardo Blancas led the attack creating opportunities and pressuring the Aguiluchos defense. It was in the 35th minute when the 15-year-old took a shot which would deflect off the hand of an Aguiluchos defender inside the 18-yard box, resulting in the referee calling a penalty in favor of Napa. Mendoza would score his third goal of the season and second against Aguiluchos.

"Lalo was very consistent and effective when pressuring the opponent,” Napa head coach Jesus Medina said about Blancas after the match. “Persistence when attacking and creating opportunities for the team including the PK makes him the Man of the Match tonight."

As time passed in the second half Napa kept looking a second goal and came close in the 73rd minute via Gabriel Borges when taking a long range shot which was tremendously saved by Aguiluchos goalkeeper Kevin Esquivel. Just minutes later 1839 goalkeeper Javier Valdez Raya would come up big for Napa after saving a one-on-one Aguiluchos approach. With minutes remaining Napa would go defensive and gave no time or space for the visitors to create chances.

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(Photo by Don Lex, Luckyduckimages.com)

SOUTHWEST CONFERENCE

IRVINE, Calif. -- For all the script writers out there who love drama, the match between OCFC and Albion SC PROS had everything. It was a game that left Orange County FC supporters stunned as they walked out of the stadium. It was unfamiliar territory; OCFC experienced their first loss as members of the National Premier Soccer League. However, the loss itself wasn’t necessarily shocking. Instead, it was the fact that OCFC had a 3-0 lead at halftime.

Striker Alessandro Canale gave OCFC a 1-0 lead three minutes into the match. Canale displayed excellent dribbling skills and fired a shot from the top of the box that couldn’t be kept out by Albion keeper Kyle Jackson. Playing with confidence, OCFC looked to extend the lead later in the first half when Canale had a point-blank opportunity in front of the Albion net after taking advantage of a turnover by center back Travis Nicklaw. Canale’s shot went agonizingly wide despite having Jackson beat. Canale made amends for mistake soon after when a shot from midfielder Justice Duerksen was parried by Jackson and Canale tapped in the rebound to give OCFC a 2-0 lead in the 34th minute.

Time was winding down in the first half but Albion would not be saved by the bell. A clearance from right back Alexander Ferreira in stoppage time found Canale and the dangerous striker completed his hat-trick by evading Nicklaw and firing his shot past Jackson. The home crowd had plenty to cheer about as OCFC led 3-0 but that would all change quite suddenly and unexpectedly. Albion made a push to try and salvage a goal before the interval and captain Francisco Sanfilippo had an opportunity, but OCFC keeper Brandon Gomez came out to no-man’s land to make the stop and force a corner kick.

The referee had to stop play for a few minutes because OCFC keeper Brandon Gomez had to be subbed off with what was initially diagnosed as a broken left pinkie finger. Gomez had to be replaced and it was at that moment when Murphy’s Law or some form of bad luck struck OCFC because the coaching staff chose to dress one goalkeeper prior to the match against Albion. Obviously at that moment Captain Hindsight would have said that Paul Caligiuri should have dressed two keepers but someone had to be subbed in to play keeper and that man would be striker Jose “Chila” Montes.

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(Photo by Leonardo Di Donato and Vince Reyes/Orange County FC)

TEMECULA, Calif. -- No recap available at this time.

OXNARD, Calif. -- The Southern California Sports Club had a good display of balance last Saturday as the team headed to the Ventura County and returned home with three points following a 3-0 road win over the Oxnard Guerreros FC at Del Sol Stadium.

The victory ended a series of bad results amassed by SoCal SC over the past weeks when the team failed to score against FC Arizona, Riverside Coras, and Orange County FC and left the three games empty-handed.

With the win, SoCal SC leapfrogged both the Oxnard Guerreros and Temecula FC to climb to the fifth place at the Southwest Conference with 17 points (five wins, two ties, seven losses). The team, though, is eliminated from playoff contention.

The match was special for midfielder Jorge Moreno, who scored SoCal SC’s first goal in the initial minutes of action. The Mexican played his last match for the club as he is headed to Spain to try out for La Liga team Leganés and second tier sides Rayo Vallecano, Albacete, and Getafe and managed to find the back of the net in his farewell match.

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(Photo courtesy SoCal SC)

CHINO, Calif. -- No recap available at this time.

NORTHWEST CONFERENCE

TUKWILA, Wash. -- Santi DiGiuseppe couldn’t bring himself to say it was a shot, because it wasn’t

.But even if it was a wayward cross from the left side of the penalty area, in his first game for Kitsap SC after recovering from a sports hernia, it was just what his team needed.

“I can’t claim that that,” the midfielder said with a laugh. “I’ve made fun of too many people for doing that and claiming a shot.”

DiGiuseppe scored in the 74th minute, three minutes after coming on, and Kitsap SC defeated OSA FC 1-0, to take the NPSL Northwest Division points lead. It also preserved Kitsap SC’s maximum-points record away from home.

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(Photo courtesy Kitsap SC)

BURIEN, Wash. -- No recap available at this time.

BURIEN, Wash. -- Saturday night was hot in Seattle and OSA FC was on fire. With a few of the usual suspects out due to injury, OSA FC’s up-and-coming coach Paul Aur looked to change things up a bit and going with a 4-3-3 system proved fruitful. OSA’s front three were always looking to get in behind Portland’s FC Mulhouse back line, but it was FCM who managed to sneak one past the keeper first. OSA was clear with their intentions though and leveled the scoreline within minutes off of a clean Matt Shaxton free kick into the top right corner. Beau Blanchard, a real livewire up front, snatched a goal to give OSA the lead before the end of the half. It was still anyone’s game and FCM was a tough competitor, playing a physical game that looked to challenge OSA’s stature.

However, the second half saw FCM grow frustrated and OSA FC solidified their advantage in the wake. The addition of winger Sean Russell brought tenacity and pace to the side and resulted in a great dime to center forward Mori Tsuchiya to cushion OSA’s lead. And with youth came energy in Johnny Reynolds who was eager to prove his worth given the chance at a start.

“It’s great to see Johnny playing with such maturity—I had the chance to coach him as a youth and he’s always shown promise. He’s really coming into his own,” Aur stated with pride.

Reynolds, bagged OSA’s 4th and final goal of the evening, giving him the praises he deserved in a game where he showed talent beyond his years.

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(Photo by Jacob Smithers/OSA FC)

SPOKANE, Wash. -- The Spokane Shadow Men’s First Team picked up their second victory of the season with a fantastic debut performance at the Spokane Polo Grounds, downing visiting OSA FC 2-0 on goals from Gonzaga alumni Zack Hamer and Alec Cutter.

In their first meeting earlier in the season, the two sides appeared headed to a scoreless stalemate when host OSA FC scored in the final minute of regulation. The Shadow, though, stunned everyone as they quickly went down the field and answered with an equalizer in stoppage time to double the drama in the wild finish for a 1-1 draw.

Wednesday evening at the Polo Grounds saw similar last-minute action. A quick counter in the final minute of the first half went up the left side with Eric Espinoza (Whitworth) finding Zack Hamer. Hamer turned his defender to get through, allowing him to fire on goal from just inside the box for the opening tally.

In the second half goalkeeper Bryan Hernandez made key saves on a few OSA FC chances to keep the ledger blank for the visitors.

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(Photo courtesy Spokane Shadow)

PORTLAND, Ore. -- No recap available at this time.

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