The Golden Gate Conference of the NPSL has reached its midway point as 3 of the 5 Conference teams have played 7 games of 12, while the other 2 teams have played 6 games and 5 games. The Golden Gate Conference is weeks ahead of most of the other conferences in the League, and the playoff push has already begun.
CD Aguiluchos USA
The Aguiluchos have currently picked up 19 points from a possible 21, with their first dropped points of the year coming this past weekend in a 1-1 road draw with second place Sacramento Gold. The Aguiluchos began the season with a 6 game win streak before coming back to earn the draw this weekend, when Captain Ricardo Guerra scored the game tying goal. This was the first game in which 2-time defending NPSL Golden Boot winner, Simon Rawnsley, did not score. He currently leads the Conference in goals with 7 in 7 games. With the Sonoma Sol having 2 games in hand, the Aguiluchos still have some work to do to clinch the regular season Conference title. They will host the Sol this weekend. A win at home against Sonoma would go a long way towards clinching the regular season Conference crown.
Sacramento Gold FC
The 2010 NPSL Champions, Sacramento Gold FC, are currently in second place with 9 points from their first 7 matches. However, they have played 2 more games than third place Sonoma County, who are just 1 point behind the Gold. The Gold were the first team to stop the Aguiluchos this season, but were only able to pick up one point in the match. The team’s best player to this point has been Matt Wiesenfarth. He has scored 5 goals, including a hat-trick, to earn him week 8 NPSL player of the week honors. The Gold will travel to 4th place East Bay Stompers hoping to pick up all 3 points in order to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Sonoma County Sol
The defending national NPSL runners-up and the 2009 NPSL champions, Sonoma County Sol, is currently in the 3rd place spot. They are coming off of a double bye week, and have 2 games in hand on both of the teams in front of them. The Sol currently have picked up 8 points from their opening 5 matches. However, they have earned just 2 points in their last 3 matches, suggesting that the double bye week might have been a necessary opportunity to allow the group to refocus. The Sol will face a huge test this weekend as they travel to San Leandro to face the Aguiluchos in a match that will be important in determining the Golden Gate Conference playoff representatives. The Sol did struggle just a bit to this point last season, before they got hot and made a run all the way to the NPSL finals. They have not missed the playoffs since 2011. Many of the same players that made the late run last season have returned, including Diego Lopez among others. So I wouldn’t be surprised to see them do it again.
East Bay FC Stompers
The East Bay Stompers got their first win of the season this past weekend, coming back from down 1-0 to beat Napa Valley 2-1 on their home turf. Until this weekend, the Stompers had picked up just 1 point in their first 5 matches. It took their 4th different goalkeeper this season to finally pick up all 3 points. The Stompers reached the Club’s first ever post season last year, but will have an uphill climb if they look to repeat that feat. They will host the Gold this weekend, and if they are able to pick up all 3 points they could see themselves just 2 points out of second place with a game in hand. The Stompers were aided big time this weekend with the addition of Costa Rican Beach national player, Grevin Pacheco, who scored the opening goal in the Stompers come-from-behind victory.
Napa Valley 1839 FC
The newest expansion side in the NPSL Golden Gate Conference, Napa Valley, has struggled to secure a win so far this season. Napa Valley has had the lead at some point in 5 of their 7 matches, but have only secured 2 points out of those 5 leads. They also have one come-from-behind draw against Wine Country Derby rivals, Sonoma Sol, in a 2-2 draw. Currently, they have picked up just 3 points from 7 games. However, they haven’t struggled off the field, averaging impressive home crowds of more than 1,000 in their 5 home games thus far. With just 5 games remaining and just 1 at home, it will be very difficult for Napa to make a run at the play-offs. Finishing anywhere above last place would be a good accomplishment in the Club’s first season. They will need to pick up a win somewhere if they hope to finish 4th or higher. The team has been led to this point up front by Bryan Marin and Francisco Mendoza, who have a combined 7 goals thus far.
The Agulichos are all but a lock to win the Golden Gate Conference regular season. What remains to be seen is if they can match what they did in 2015 by winning the West Region of the playoffs to reach the national semifinals again. Sacramento and Sonoma will most likely duke it out for 2nd place in the Conference. Sonoma is in the stronger position for that spot with 2 games in hand, with Sacramento just 1 point ahead of them. East Bay are not completely out of that spot either, but will probably have to win at least 5 of their remaining 6 games to really be in the conversation.