The NPSL’s Golden Gate Conference regular season came down to the final weekend both in terms of who were going to be the 3 teams to get playoff spots, and who was going to win the regular season title. The Sonoma County Sol took top spot in the Conference regular season for the 3rd time in the last 4 years. As well, both CD Aguiluchos USA and the East Bay FC Stompers booked the other 2 West Regional playoff spots awarded to the Golden Gate Conference.
Sonoma County Sol
The Sol came into the final weekend of the regular season not officially qualified for a playoff spot, having to play 2 games in 2 days. On the other hand, they came into the weekend knowing that 2 wins would secure them the top seed in their half of the West Regional playoffs. The Sol first hosted the Aguiluchos in a game that would all but determine the number one seed and Conference Champion. They would go on to grind out a 1-0 victory, before they traveled to last place Real San Jose the following day. They won 3-0 against San Jose to take the top spot, earning 6 points in 2 days, and finishing the season with 26 points.
Sonoma will host the East Bay FC Stompers, who are making their first ever NPSL playoff appearance. Less than 2 weeks ago, the Stompers had their backs against the wall, down 2-0 to the Sol. They needed a comeback win both in this game and the one they played against the Sacramento Gold this past weekend to sneak into the playoffs. They got the comeback win in the game against the Sol by a score of 4-3, setting up a clash with the Sacramento Gold on the final weekend to earn the last playoff spot. While the Gold only needed a draw, the Stompers needed a win. They scored early before adding 3 more in the second half to win 4-2 and reach the Club’s first playoff.
The Stompers ended the season with 22 points, 1 point ahead of the Gold’s 21. With the win, they will travel to Sonoma to play a team they have had success against this season. While the Sol is the Conference champ, they struggled in all 3 match ups against the Stompers this season, losing twice and tying once.
CD Aguiluchos USA
The Aguiluchos entered the Final weekend in the top spot, knowing that a win or a draw against the Sol would secure them the number one seed. After losing in Sonoma, the Aguiluchos had to wait on the result of the Sol vs. San Jose game on the following day to find out their playoff opponent.
The Aguiluchos earned the number two seed as runner up in the Conference and will host the Northwest Conference Champions OSA FC. OSA got the number three seed based on 17 points in 10 games, or a 1.7 points per game average, while Aguiluchos had 24 points in 14 games for a 1.714 average. The Aguiluchos beat OSA FC in their one meeting this year when they traveled up to Seattle/Tacoma. Aguiluchos leading goal scorer, Simon Rawnsley, earned national player of the week honors for his hat trick in that game as Aguiluchos won 4-0.
OSA FC (NW Conference)
OSA FC beat the Portland Spartans on the final day of the season to win the two-team conference. OSA struggled early in the year, but hit their stride with a two-win road trip to the Bay Area mid season, and then never looked back. They overtook their Portland rivals for top spot on the penultimate weekend of the season and confirmed top spot on the final day. They will travel to Oakland to face the Aguiluchos in a rematch of a 4-0 loss in Washington.
Aguiluchos vs. OSA FC
July 9th Raimondi Park, Oakland, California
In the match up of the number 2 vs. 3 seed, I have the Aguiluchos advancing. The Aguiluchos feature arguably the most lethal attacking duo in the NPSL. Simon Rawnsley tallied a whopping 19 goals in 14 games. His strike partner, Ross Middlemiss, is arguably the best playmaker in the Conference, with most of the Aguiluchos goals coming through his creativity. They also feature the Conference’s best goals against average, which will prove vital in the playoffs. While it likely won’t end 4-0 like it did up in Washington, I think the home team Aguiluchos will advance.
CDA 2-1 OSA
Sonoma vs. East Bay FC
July 9th Santa Rosa High school, Santa Rosa, California
While it would be easy to pick the team that led the Conference in goals and won the regular season, this match up won’t be so easy for the Sol. The Sol would be favorites against any other team in the Conference except for the Stompers, who match up perfectly against Sonoma’s tactically balanced team. I believe the Stompers will squeak by with an extra-time victory to win their first ever playoff game.
SCS 2-3 EBFC (ET)