The NPSL Golden Gate Conference regular season finished up on July 8th when Sonoma County Sol topped their Wine Country Rivals, Napa Valley, to earn the second playoff spot for the Conference. The Sol was awarded the 7th seed in the Western Region playoffs, while the Conference champions, CD Aguiluchos, was awarded the 2nd seed.
The two Clubs met up in the first round of the playoffs this weekend with CD Aguiluchos winning by a score of 4-0 to advance to the Western Region semifinals to face Kitsap SC. The Conference’s leading scorer, Simon Rawnsley, bagged a hat-trick to carry the Aguiluchos to victory. It will now be up to them to keep the Conference’s streak of representing the entire Western Region in the National semifinals dating back to 2012.
The 2017 regular season was an Interesting one as CD Aguiluchos ran away with the Conference title, winning it with three games left to play. On the other hand, the Sol had to weather a rocky middle of the season to come racing back to claim the final playoff spot by winning all three of their final games.
Here is the Midfield Press Best XI and Honorable Mentions for the Golden Gate Conference for this season.
Marcus Rojas: East Bay FC Stompers
Rojas is simply the best one-on-one shot-stopper in the League. His return from college to the Stompers was the key to turning around the Club’s season and helping them at least make a push at the playoffs. The team had gone through 3 keepers in their first 5 games after conceding 13 goals. While Rojas only recorded one clean sheet all season in 7 starts, he was able to save all 3 penalty kicks against him as well as concede just 11 goals. Rojas was also featured in the NPSL National Team of the Week on two occasions.
Ricardo Guerra*: CD Aguiluchos USA
Guerra is the Aguiluchos’ Club captain and unquestioned leader of the Conference champions. He can play both at the right back and the right wing spots on the field and could make the Conference Best XI at either position. He scored 4 goals this season while mostly playing defense. Guerra also contributed with crosses from the right side, resulting in multiple 2 assist games. During the team’s hottest stretch of the year, he made the NPSL Team of the Week on three consecutive occasions at defense.
Nicholas Lombardi*: Sonoma County Sol
Lombardi spent a good portion of the season as the Sol’s defensive midfield, but he can also play just as well at an outside back spot. He was the team’s engine for much of the season and contributed 2 big goals in the final 2 weeks to help get the Sol into the playoffs. His goal against Aguiluchos in the second to last week of the year to give his team the lead is one of the best goals you’ll see anywhere in this League.
Selvin Bonilla: Sacramento Gold
Bonilla was the most consistent defender for the best defensive side in the Conference. He appeared in 10 of the Gold’s 12 games, and was part of a defense that conceded just 18 goals in the 12 Conference games, 3 better than any other Club in the Conference. Bonilla was Man of the Match in Sacramento’s game against Sonoma on June 3rd.
Jose Cabeza: CD Aguiluchos USA
Cabeza is one of the most important players for the Aguiluchos as he solidifies the defense for the Conference champions. His presence was a major reason that Aguiluchos clinched the Conference crown early. As well, Cabeza’s absence is a big part of what caused the team to lose in the final two matches. He is good with the ball at his feet and can put in a decent ball on longer free kicks from the halfway line.
Daniel Cuevas: Sacramento Gold
Cuevas was the Player of the Year in the Conference this season. He is one of only a few players in the Conference to play in all 12 of his team’s games. Cuevas is a midfielder that is seemingly all over the place for his side. He contributed 6 goals, the most from any midfield player in the Conference. He was the Man of the Match for the Gold in multiple games, including in both matches in which he scored twice.
Francisco Mendoza: Napa Valley 1839 FC
Mendoza was the main man for the expansion side this season. Like Cuevas, he played in all 12 of his team’s games during the 2017 season, eventually becoming the Club’s captain in the final match. He tallied 5 goals on the season, including most of the biggest goals in Napa Valley’s inaugural campaign. Mendoza scored the Club’s 1st goal in their 1st ever match in front of more than 2,000 home fans. He also scored a game tying goal in the first Wine Country Derby after his team went down to 10 men in the 90th minute. Finally, Mendoza also scored the goal in the Club’s lone win on the season.
Jesus Maldonado: CD Aguiluchos USA
Maldonado contributed some key goals during the Aguiluchos early breakout to the title. He scored 4 goals while playing in 8 games for the team during the period of the season in which they excelled most. He scored twice in a match against the 2nd place Sonoma County Sol that helped lead his side to victory that day. As well, Maldonado is the one that takes most of the teams corner kicks and set pieces in attacking areas and plays in dangerous crosses a high percentage of the time.
Simon Rawnsley*: CD Aguiluchos USA
There was never a doubt that the two-time defending NPSL Golden Boot winner would make the Conference Best XI. While not a season up to his usual standard where he bags a couple of hat tricks and scores more than a goal a match, Rawnsley was still able to net 10 goals in 11 games. He once again led the Conference in goals, but will come up short at a bid for a 3rd consecutive NPSL Golden Boot award.
Matt Wiesenfarth: Sacramento Gold FC
Wiensenfarth was just a single goal behind Rawnsley’s Conference lead as he scored 9 goals. He was able to do so while playing in just 6 games for the Club. Who knows how much better off the Gold might have been if they were able to get the full 12 games out of Matt. Wiensenfarth scored 2 hat tricks and was named NPSL Player of the Week for his hat trick against Sonoma on April 29th. He also spends time playing in the PDL for the Burlingame Dragons, where he has scored 13 goals for them. Simply put, Wiesenfarth is one of the best strikers, if not the best playing in D4 Northern California soccer.
Omar Nuno: Sonoma County Sol
Nuno led the 2nd place Sol in goals this season with 9, leaving him just a single goal shy of Rawnsley’s Conference lead as well. He scored those 9 goals in just 8 games, including goals in each of the Sol’s final 3 games to help the Club reach the playoffs. Nuno contributed a hat trick in the 2nd to last game of the season against the Conference champion, Aguiluchos.
Honderable Mentions/Second Team 3-4-3
John Connolly*, Sacramento Gold
Justin Ferreira*, Sonoma County Sol
Zach Ulrich*, Sacramento Gold
Emanuel Vazquez*, East Bay FC Stompers
Ahmad Hatifi CD, Aguiluchos USA
Daniel Lomeli, Sacramento Gold FC
Jorge Butron, East Bay FC Stompers
Selaab Ghafouri, CD Aguiluchos USA
Bryan Marin, Napa Valley 1839
Diego Lopez*, Sonoma County Sol
Brenton Frame*, Sonoma County Sol
* Means player is on Midfield Press 2016 Conference Best XI