The first-ever Wine Country Derby took place this weekend as NPSL newcomers, Napa Valley 1839 FC, welcomed the NPSL national runners up from last year, the Sonoma County Sol, to Memorial Stadium. Both clubs are located in the heart of northern California’s wine country, with home stadiums less than 30 minutes apart. Although the two teams had never played each other, the intensity on the field was already at a rivalry level.
The match started fast as two of the returning star players on the Sol linked up for the opening goal of the match less than 3 minutes in. Starting left winger, Diego Lopez, beat his man down the flank before chipping in a perfect cross to the leading goal scorer for the team, Taylor Varnadore, who was unmarked in the box. He headed the ball home with ease for his 3rd of the season.
Following the early 1-0 lead, Varnadore found himself one on one with the keeper before chipping his shot over the bar.The Sol dominated most of the early part of the game. This was just one of several Sol chances that fell their way in the opening 15 minutes.
In the 15th minute however, Varnadore collided with Napa Valley center back, Juan Acosta. Varnadore received a bad cut, which forced him to leave the match. While this didn’t immediately change the game, the loss of Varnadore was noticeable later in the match .
Following his exit, the Sol doubled their lead in the 23rd minute when center back, Justin Ferriera, over hit his pass from just over the half way line. The ball went on to sail over the Napa Valley goalie, Roberto Llamas, and into the back of the net to make the match 2-0 in favor of the Sol.
The Sol saw more good opportunities in the first half go wasted as Napa Valley built their way back into the match, eventually forcing multiple Sol yellow cards late in the 1st half with good runs. The match headed into the break at 2-0, but the momentum was clearly changing.
Much like the Sol in the first half, Napa Valley came storming out of the gates immediately putting pressure on Sonoma’s back line. Bryan Marin, Napa Valley’s leading goal scorer, picked up his 3rd goal of the game minutes into the second half off of an excellent cross from Gabriel Borges to make the score 2-1.
The second half was all Napa as they dominated the play after pulling a goal back. However, they were not able to find the back of the net, and saw multiple good chance go wasted.
As a result of the intensity from Napa fighting back to get a point, they also started to pick up multiple yellow cards. It eventually led to a reckless challenge from Bryan Marin as he was chasing back defensively. He received his second yellow card and was sent off in the 85th minute. This forced Napa Valley to play down a man for the remainder of the game.
This did not deter Napa’s hunger to find the equalizer against their new rivals. Late in the game, in the 90th minute of the match, Francisco Mendoza was on the break without help. He fired a rocket shot from outside the right corner of the box, which passed the helpless Sol goalie to tie the match and send the home crowd into a frenzy.
The match ended 2 all, but surely felt like a win for Napa as they were dominated most of the first half, then saw themselves down a man late in the match, and yet were still able to pull off the draw earning the home fans their first-ever home point. The atmosphere and intensity of this first-ever Wine Country Derby was as good as it gets and will continue to build form here.