Photo Credit: LuckyDuckImages.com -Don Lex
The first full weekend of NPSL Golden Gate Conference games kicked off this weekend. This brought the return of CD Aguiluchos USA, set to defend their first-ever Conference title as well as their Western Region Playoff title. Their opponent was NPSL newcomer, FC Davis, making their League debut.
The game was a closely contested affair between both sides. Aguiluchos was able to find a way to win 1-0 in their return to Raimondi Park in Oakland, after playing one season in San Leandro last year.
The return to Oakland also saw the return of one of the Aguiluchos’ top players from years past, Octavio Guzman. Guzman was a member in the inaugural Aguiluchos’ season before playing for Sacramento Republic and Saint Louis in the USL. He marked his return to the Aguiluchos midfield with the lone goal of the game and a dominant performance in the center of midfield.
Not much happened in the opening 10 minutes as both sides were clearly feeling each other out, and neither team took control of the game. The first chance of the game fell to Man of the Match, Octavio Guzman, on a free kick from the top of the box. Guzman’s free kick was hit into the wall before taking a nasty deflection into the back of the net, wrong footing Davis goalie Kris Schultz, to give Aguiluchos the 1-0 lead.
In the rest of the half, Davis took control of the game, as the rest of the first half chances fell their way. FC Davis attacker Evan Barrett was having his way down the right flank, causing the Aguiluchos defense all sorts of problems. However, he was never able to connect with his teammates on the final ball to equalize the score.
Some of the best chances of the game fell to Dalton Pando of Davis late in the first half. First, in the 36th minute, he was in on goal and tried to round Aguiluchos keeper Kevin Gonzales, but dragged it wide. Then again in the 38th minute, Pando found himself on the end of another great cross from Barrett, but was unable to hit the target. Then once again, Pando had a chance in the 44th minute, but again dragged his shot wide.
The half finished 1-0 in favor of the home side, but the balance of the play was with Davis.
The second half began with Aguiluchos much more involved in the game than in the first half. Returning 2-time NPSL Golden Boot Winner Simon Rawnsley of Aguiluchos began to find his chances. Rawnsley forced 3 saves out of the Davis keeper Kris Schultz inside the first 15 minutes of the half.
Aguiluchos could have doubled their lead in the 62nd minute when Rawnsley redirected the ball back across goal with his head, but Jesus Maldanado was just barely unable to tap it home on the back post.
Davis then began to press hard for the equalizer as substitute Steven Guzman began to cause the Aguiluchos defense problems. His efforts started in the 70th minute when he received a free header but missed it just over the bar, and then again in the 73rd minute when he forced Aguiluchos keeper Kevin Gonzales into his best save of the match.
Davis had the chance for a dramatic equalizer in stoppage time when Miguel Acevedo found Dashiell MacNamara who missed his diving header just wide. The game ended with a score of 1-0 as the defending champions began their Conference title defense with a win.