Preview: Back to the Bay

(Photo by Vanessa S. Nelson)

Sacramento Gold FC is heading back to the Bay Area to try and jumpstart its NPSL campaign. Waiting for them is an opponent not used to looking down at the Gold in the standings but looking to continue to move up the rankings. Here's a preview of tomorrow night's match.

Disappointing Draws

Sacramento Gold FC has had a disappointing start to the 2018 NPSL campaign. Despite getting an extremely favorable beginning to the schedule (four of the first five matches at home), the Gold has only come up with four points, with all four coming in draws in the Capitol City. While Sacramento's four-game home start has added exactly four draws and points, the lone road contest this season went even worse: a 3-0 loss to El Farolito.

The problem isn't exactly hard to pinpoint. Despite getting some big stretches of possession, Sacramento's offense has been extremely lackluster. The Gold has only scored twice in five games and has yet to hold a lead at any point all season. While some of the results can be tacked up to bad luck and good opposition, the scoring slump is a problem that threatens to plague the club all season. It's also undermined the great defensive efforts put up so far, and the Gold defense will likely need to be in top form again this weekend.

Not Best in the East Bay

The Gold-Stompers rivalry has, historically, been pretty one-sided, with Sacramento dominating the series for the first few seasons. However, since they've moved to the East Bay, the Stompers have been striking back. Over the the past two years, the Stompers have beaten the Gold three times, while Sacramento has only won twice. In addition, every single contest has been close, as opposed to the blowouts of old.

Furthermore, Hayward has proven to be a bit of a hellish road destination for Sacramento. In three matches in the East Bay, Sacramento has only one once (and lost twice). The trip itself is also somehow a tough task, with the Gold fielding smaller rosters in these contests more than others. That, combined with some of the Stompers home magic, has given Sacramento fits over the last two seasons. However, it's also a problem of the Gold's own making, much like the offensive drought. Both will have to be fixed on Saturday.

(Photo by Vanessa S. Nelson)

Key Matchup

Though the Gold offense certainly needs to come alive, the defense will definitely in for a tough task this weekend. Quite unlike Sacramento, the Stompers' offense has proven potent, scoring in every single match so far and increasing their output each time. That attack came to a head last week in a statement match against the surging Napa Valley 1839, which East Bay won in Wine Country 4-2 in convincing fashion.

That offense has come from a lot of different sources, though there are a few top performers. Gustavo Rico leads the Stompers with three goals, scored in three different matches. Meanwhile, Michael Tieku notched a brace against Napa and is on a roll right now. Steven Wright, Zach Ulrich, Dominik Jakubek, Selvin Bonilla and company will have another tough task ahead of them. However, should they be up to it, they can give the offense a much-needed backstop against a defense that has given up at least one goal each match.

Pick it Up

We're over a third of the way through the season, and Sacramento does not find itself in a particularly good spot: four points in five games. The scoring drought has wasted a favorable early schedule and left the Gold with a decently big mountain to climb to get to the top three spots in the Golden Cate Conference (which means playoffs). Though there's still a lot of the season left, that climb has to begin soon, preferably this weekend.

Sacramento is also facing a squad that has gotten off to a promising start and needs to continue building on it to keep up with its two Bay Area Rivals. Surprisingly early in the season, stakes are getting high. Another poor performance could end up biting Sacramento later on. Can the Gold finally put some points on the board and rack up its first win of the season? Can the Stompers add another nightmare result to Sacramento's history in Hayward? We'll find out at 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 28 at CSU East Bay's Pioneer Stadium.