Rivalry Week in the NPSL Golden Gate Conference
The NPSL Golden Gate Conference has hit the end of the first third of the season with some highly competitive games to this point. The upcoming weekend will feature two top rivalry matches in the Conference as Napa Valley 1839, NPSL newcomer for this season, hosts Sonoma County Sol for the first time ever in the Wine Country Derby, while top of the Conference CD Aguiluchos will travel to Alameda County Derby rivals, the East Bay Stompers, in their second encounter of the year.
CD Aguiluchos currently top the 5-team Conference standings with the maximum number of 12 points from their opening 4 matches. They were able to top the 2016 NPSL national runners-up, the Sonoma County Sol, this past weekend in Petaluma with a 3-2 victory. This was the Sol’s first loss of the year. They now have 6 points, but have only played 3 of the other 4 Conference teams thus far.
The EBFC Stompers are coming off of another tough road loss as they fell 3-0 at the hands of the Sacramento Gold. The Stompers have struggled to start the season after making their first ever playoff appearance last year. So far, they have only picked up 1 point from their first 4 games from a 3-3 tie at home against Napa Valley in the NPSL Game of the Week.
Napa Valley is coming off of their first bye week of the season. They too have picked up just 1 point so far this season, but like the Sol they have only played 3 matches. Napa has however made a big splash off the field, with a home crowd of over 2,000 at their inaugural match.
Alameda County Derby: CD Aguiluchos USA vs. EBFC Stompers
CD Aguiluchos took the first leg of the Derby back on March 19th with a hard fought 2-1 victory in their home opener against the Stompers. The now 2-time defending NPSL golden boot winner, Simon Rawnsley, began his title defense that day with a goal, and has continued that form through this point in the season. Rawnsley has scored in all 4 matches, including 2 against Sonoma this past weekend. He now has 5 goals in 4 games and leads the Conference once again. His strike partner, Ross Middlesmiss, got off the mark this weekend as well with a top class chip off the keeper to score his first of the year after coming off of a serious knee injury late last season. While as dangerous as any in the league offensively, Aguiluchos have yet to keep a clean sheet this season, conceding 7 times in their opening four matches. All four of their wins are by just a single goal margin.
This is an early must win home game for the Stompers. The Stompers have struggled this year defensively to replicate their performance from last season. They have conceded 11 goals in their first 4 games, at least 2 goals in every match. The communication between the center backs and goalkeeper has been shaky at best for the Stompers this season, with a majority of those 11 conceded goals coming off of defensive errors as opposed to good play from the opponents. If the Stompers want to return to the playoffs, the defense needs to be sorted out quickly, especially with the potent Aguiluchos attack coming up next.
Wine Country Derby: Sonoma County Sol vs. Napa Valley 1839
This will be the first meeting of the two sides from Northern California’s two major wine regions in what is being called by some the Wine Country Derby. The Sol look to rebound from their first loss of the season this past week with a trip to the expansion side Napa Valley 1839, less than 25 miles from their new home stadium. The Sol is returning many of the players that went to the NPSL final last year, including Taylor Varnadore and Diego Lopez up-front, who each have scored 2 goals already this season.
Napa Valley has started slowly, as many would have predicted for an expansion side. However, they have not been out of it or overmatched in any of their opening 3 matches. They lost by just one goal in their opener to the Conference leaders and picked up a point in their first ever road match. In the match this weekend, the home crowd will be vital for Napa Valley. It has been larger and louder than any other in the Conference this season. Their stand out player thus far this season is goalie Roberto Llamas. He has made multiple huge saves, including a penalty kick save against the Stompers to save Napa the point.
With Napa’s home crowd and Sonoma’s club history, this match-up has the ability to grow into one of the top derbys in the NPSL. This inaugural Wine Country Derby will be one for the record books as this rivalry develops and grows.