While some of the NPSL Conferences are just getting started, the NPSL Golden Gate Conference has just reached its halfway point. The Golden Gate Conference began its season on March 19th when Real San Jose beat the Sacramento Gold FC 2-0, weeks ahead of the rest of the League.
CD Aguiluchos USA
Aguiluchos represented the entire Western Region in the semi finals last year, and have picked up where they left off last season. Aguiluchos occupies first place in the standings, even on points and goal differential with Sacramento Gold FC. Aguiluchos has been lead by playmaker Ross Middlemiss, as he goes so does the team. Middlemiss has been the catalyst for this team all season. His individual build-up play has led to a majority of the team’s goals. He currently has 6 goals and 5 assists. His strike partner, Simon Rawnsley, has also been on fire, earning NPSL player of the week for his hat trick against OSA FC in week 3. He currently has 10 goals in League play as he looks to defend his Golden Boot title.
Aguiluchos has hit a small bump in the road in the last week. After a great win in the first round of the US Open Cup, they have failed to win a game in any of their last 3, including getting knocked out of the Open Cup to Sacramento Republic. Center midfielder Miguel Santiago has been a big part of Aguiluchos success this year, but he has missed the last 2 matches, leaving a hole in the center of the field. With his eventual return and the focus now solely on League play, Aguiluchos look set to return to the playoffs and fight for a Conference title.
Sacramento Gold FC
After falling in their home opener, Sacramento Gold went on to win 5 straight matches to ascend to the top of the standings. They have one game in hand on Aguiluchos, and could regain sole possession of first place with that extra game. While the start to the season was near perfect for the Gold, they too have hit a rough patch. First, they lost 5-3 to Aguiluchos 3 weeks ago in a stoppage time, followed by a loss to Northwest Conference opponents OSA this past week.
The Gold should be able to bounce back and secure a playoff spot with the players they have. They feature week 2 national player of the week Jose “Cuco” Martinez, a talented forward. They have a solid roster that includes captain and goalkeeper John Connolly. The most influential line on the field for the Gold this year is their dominant midfield, which includes Nico Gonzales, who has the ability to bend in great free kick goals, and Sammy Gonzales, who sets their attacking pace and contributes his share of goals from midfield. The Gold, like Aguiluchos, should comfortably make the playoffs and continue to fight for the Conference title.
Sonoma County Sol
The Sol dominated last year’s campaign with an impressive 10-2 record, but is having a tough time matching that so far this season. The Sol are in 3rd place in the current standings, with 10 points from their first 7 matches. The Sol had a chance this past weekend to make up ground with both Sacramento and Aguiluchos losing, and pull to within 2 points of the top with games in hand on both teams. They unfortunately didn’t take their chance, but still remain in 3rd place in a potential playoff spot.
Taylor Varnadore has led the Sol this season, a powerful forward and center back. The multiple wins are due to his goal tallies. He now anchors the team in the back as arguably the most versatile player in the Conference. The Sol should be excited with the return of Omar Nuno, an imposing center forward, who is both strong in hold up play and has decent pace. He found the back of the net this weekend, and should do so more to help the Sol in the fight for a playoff spot. The Sol are within striking distance of the top of the Conference if they were to go on a run, but could also be looking over there shoulders to secure a potential final playoff spot.
East Bay FC Stompers
Following their relocation, the new East Bay FC Stompers won their opening game in San Jose, but then found points difficult to come by. That all changed in the last 3 games. They are unbeaten in their last 3, earning 5 points in those matches. The key to recent success has been the return of Khalid Arramdani, who has helped the team with 3 goals and 1 assist in their last 2 games. The Stompers earned 4 points in those 2 matches.
The Stompers currently have 8 points from their first 7 matches and are in 4th place, 2 points behind the Sol. They beat the Sol this weekend in a vital playoff spot battle that saw the Stompers pull to within 2 points, in a game in which they could have fallen 8 back. The Stompers’ top player this year has been right back and winger Prince Bere, who has contributed with a number of assists. The Stompers have the possibility to fight for at least a playoff spot if they can continue this good run, especially with games in hand on the top 2 teams. Who knows? Maybe even 2nd place is within their reach.
Real San Jose
Real San Jose has 5 points from their first 9 matches this year, but they did beat the Gold on the road with a 2-0 shutout win, showing their potential. Recent addition to the squad, Fernando Lares Sanchez, found the back of the net three times in his first two games, first scoring twice against East Bay, and then one more against the Sol. Sanchez has the ability to take on any defender one on one, as well as score from just about anywhere on the pitch with both feet. His addition to the squad is a huge boost for San Jose.
The best player for San Jose this season has been goalie Jonathan Arellano. He has easily been the top keeper in the Conference to this point, despite his goals against. Arellano pulled off a spectacular “Tim Howard against Belgium” effort against the Sol last week, reaching double digits in saves despite the 2-1 loss. While the playoffs would be a tough ask at this point, they are not out of the running if San Jose were to find their form.
The Golden Gate Conference is starting to heat up with less than half of the regular season matches remaining before the playoffs begin. Both Sacramento Gold and Aguiluchos could be a force come playoff time, while the Sol and the Stompers will most likely duke it out for the final playoff spot. The Stompers will host the Sol on 2 more occasions on the 8th and 25th of June, with the winner of these matches most likely making the playoffs.