Preview: Finally hitting the road

(Photo by Vanessa S. Nelson)

After three straight home matchups to start the season, Sacramento Gold FC hits the road for the first time in 2018 this weekend in an early afternoon contest. Saturday's opponent has started strong and is looking to get a boost from their own home crowd. Here's a preview of tomorrow afternoon’s match.

Leaving Friendly Confines...

Sacramento Gold FC has been dealt either an even or road-heavy start to its schedule over the past few seasons. However, this is not the case in 2018. The Gold's first three matches have taken place in the home confines of Capital Christian High School, with a bye week coming in between matches 2 and 3. The favorable schedule gave Sacramento's already stout defense another big edge.

That defense has given up one goal in those three matches, and let no balls hit the back of the net for 247 straight minutes of play. However, the Gold has gotten only three points out of that sterling defensive performance -- three straight draws, with the last two being scoreless. Though three points are certainly better than one, it's tough not to think that Sacramento wasted their fortunate schedule, at least a little bit. The Gold should be heading into its first road trip with more than three points.

... And Entering Theirs

Meanwhile, Sacramento's opponent -- Golden Gate Conference newcomer El Farolito -- got the exact opposite draw to their first NPSL schedule: three straight road matches. Where in this case three points out of three road games would've been a good result, Farolito did more than double better -- two wins and seven points, putting them in a tie for first place in the Golden Gate standings.

The run began in dramatic fashion with a last-minute tying goal (just like Sacramento) against the East Bay Stompers. Farolito followed that up by scoring three goals in an eight-minute span in a 4-2 win over the Sonoma County Sol. Then, Farolito dealt Napa Valley 1839 its first loss of the season, 3-2, with the game-winner coming at the death. So, not only has Farolito been proving they can win on the road, but also that they can do so in dramatic fashion. Now, they're getting the home field advantage.

(Photo by Vanessa S. Nelson)

Key Matchup

Though Sacramento's offense definitely needs to get in gear (more on that later), the road is where the Gold defense will need to continue its brick wall-like performance. While Sacramento posted back-to-back shutouts, Farolito's two wins saw seven goals in the back of the net. This has all the makings of an "unstoppable force meets immovable object" matchup, and the result may play a big role in playoff positioning.

Item #1 on the Gold defense's to-do list: stop Carlos Montes, who leads Farolito with three goals. However, Montes is far from the only threat. Five other players have hit the back of the net for Farolito, so the Gold will certainly have its hands full. If the Sacramento defense can remain solid, the Gold offense should have plenty of chances to get something going against a vulnerable Farolito defense. But even if the defense lets up, Sacramento has to improve on the offensive end.

Get Some Goals

With the addition of Farolito, Academica Turlock, and FC Davis, the Golden Gate Conference now stands at eight teams, the top three of which go to the playoffs. As Sacramento fights seven teams to go to the postseason, every point is crucial. As mentioned earlier, earning a point is great, but earning three is even better. To get those three points, Sacramento will have to score some goals.

This means the Gold will have to adopt the opposite mindset teams usually take into road matches: be aggressive. Doing so could leave some big opportunities for Farolito to take early momentum, but the Gold needs to start racking up wins, now. Can Sacramento finally get its first win of the season in hostile territory? Can Farolito continue their surprisingly strong start to their inaugural NPSL campaign? We'll find out at noon on Saturday, April 7 at Boxer Stadium.