Preview: A new Causeway Classic

(Photo by Vanessa S. Nelson)

Fresh off its first loss of the 2018 season, Sacramento Gold FC returns to the friendly confines of home. Waiting for them is a new rival, which is ready for the first of many exciting contests. Here's a preview of tomorrow night's match.

On Different Trends

This will be the fourth home contest in the first five matches for Sacramento, where the Gold has drawn three times this season and four times in a row. Those three contests featured a combined two goals, which makes last weekend's result even more shocking. In its first road trip of 2018, Sacramento was thrashed by NPSL newcomers El Farolito 3-0. The Gold is hoping the comforts of home will be able to right the ship against another new club.

FC Davis, meanwhile, has also had somewhat of a low-scoring start. After falling 1-0 to CD Aguiluchos USA in its debut, Davis then recorded back-to-back 1-1 draws against the East Bay Stompers and Sonoma County Sol. But last weekend, the offense sort of came alive, as Davis topped the surging Napa Valley 1839 2-0 for its first ever NPSL win in club history. Over both of their first four games, both Sacramento and Davis have seen several draws from low-scoring contests. However, Sacramento's coming off a loss, while Davis is entering off a big win. It's another subplot to the first game in what could be a huge rivalry.

Another Tale of Two Cities

Sacramento Gold FC has enjoyed a number of rivalries with some of the other Golden Gate Conference clubs, namely Sonoma and CD Aguiluchos USA. However, the others have their own, closer-to-home derbies with Napa and the Stompers, respectively. This kind of close contest is something Sacramento's been missing. Until now, that is. Thanks to the addition of FC Davis, the Gold has a brand new opponent just 15 miles away.

Obviously for regional sports fans, clashes between Sacramento and Davis are nothing new. Most famous is the Causeway Classic, an annual football game between Sacramento State and UC Davis. The name, which comes from the Interstate 80 causeway over the Yolo Bypass that connects the two cities, also applies to other sporting clashes between the Hornets and Aggies. Now, it gets another, rare, non-collegiate wrinkle. Though FC Davis is four matches out and Sacramento has plenty of history with other clubs, the Sacramento-Davis connection offers an opportunity for something special.

(Photo by Vanessa S. Nelson)

Key Matchup

Both Sacramento and Davis have been defined by defense (and overall low scoring) so far in 2018. Davis has given up just three goals all season, while Sacramento has only surrendered four (and just one at home). Conversely, Davis has scored just four goals in their four matches. Still, that's three better than the Gold, which needs its offense to step up big time if it wants to make up some ground in the ever-developing playoff race in the Golden Gate.

Opportunities haven't been the issue for Sacramento, which has recorded plenty of possession and shots on goal in most of its matches. The problem has been finishing those chances. The Gold has had issues putting the ball in the back of the net, especially when the defense collapses like they do during long stretches of Sacramento possession. That fits the M.O. of a team like Davis (physical, defensive-oriented) to perfection. Interestingly, these two played an informal scrimmage in the preseason: the two drew despite a heavy edge for Gold possession. Sound familiar? Sacramento can't let that happen again on Saturday.

Get the Offense in Gear

Three points in three games left Sacramento in a good, but not great, spot in the initial playoff positioning. But, the loss last weekend may prove to be a big setback. Through four games, the Gold sits tied for sixth place, seven points back of the co-leaders, Farolito and Aguiluchos, and four points back of the final Golden Gate playoff spot. There are still ten games to go, so there's plenty of time. However, the Gold will be over a third of the way through the season after this weekend. Sacramento has to get moving soon.

To start making up ground, Sacramento needs goals, plain and simple. The Gold has scored the fewest goals by far in the conference, while Davis has tallied the second-fewest. Sacramento needs to take advantage and put some balls in the back of the net. Unless the offense gets going, Sacramento could be more than halfway through its home schedule with just four points, meaning much harder work on the road in the rest of the season. Can Sacramento finally get its offense in gear and put some points on the board? Can Davis stifle Sacramento and start this new rivalry with an upset? We'll find out at 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 21 at Capital Christian High School.