The NPSL had to be happy it made this match its National Game of the Week, because the back and forth game kept the crowd on the edge of its seat until the final whistle.
Despite a dominating first half by previously undefeated Napa Valley 1839 FC, now 2-1-1, visiting El Farolito of San Francisco, 2-0- 1, had the final say in registering an impressive 3-2 comeback win.
“We didn’t know anything about Napa coming into this game,” said winning coach Santiago Lopez. “I was very impressed with the 1839 team but also with the venue and the enthusiastic home crowd. Marcos Iubel, who came on as a substitute, made a great
goal for us. We threw everything we had forward in the final 10 minutes.”
Iubel’s unlikely goal came in the last minute of stoppage time, after which a last desperate shot by Napa Valley 1839 was saved by El Farolito goalie Mario Martinez at full stretch as the final whistle blew.
Both coaches noted the physicality of the game, which resulted in two players being sent off for Napa Valley 1839 and one for El Farolito as well as several yellow cards being served up to both sides.
Losing coach Jesus Medina felt the number of whistles really hurt the flow of 1839’s game.
The game, played at Justin-Siena High’s Dodd Field, began with ideal playing conditions with a slight sea breeze blowing down the pitch from west to east.
It wasn’t long before Napa Valley 1839 brought the home crowd to its feet as El Farolito goalie Martinez handled a bouncing ball just outside his box, giving 1839 a free. In fairness, Martinez was staring into a setting sun and no doubt had trouble spotting the
1839’s Francisco Mendoza drilled a laser into the wall that was ruled a handball by the referee, giving Napa Valley a penalty shot in just the fourth minute of the game. Again El Farolito was spared as Max Alvarez hit the right post, but Arturo Ortega collected the loose ball and gave Napa Valley 1839 a 1-0 lead on a hard left foot drive from 15 yards.
Ten minutes later, a red card on 1839 forward Bryan Marin for a hard challenge on El Farolito’s Gustavo Rueias would change the game.
In the 23rd minute, El Farolito was awarded its first corner kick and made the most of it. A low curling ball from Arnhold Rivas found the head of Irving Garcia and he made no mistake the keeper and tying the game at 1-1.
Despite being short-handed, Napa Valley 1839 took advantage of Arturo Ortega’s long throw-in to the head Max Alvarez, which beat Martinez and gave Napa Valley 1839 a 2-1 lead at the half on Alvarez’s first goal of the year.
But just before the halftime whistle, El Farolito’s Luis Sampayo received his second yellow and he was red-carded off the field, evening the sides at 10 apiece for the second half.
“We had a man advantage for a long time and didn’t do much,” observed El Farolito coach Lopez.
The second half was helter skelter with both sides mounting promising attacks early with nothing to show for it.
Carlos Montes finally tied the game at 2-2 with a left foot shot from 20 yards out in the 68th minute. Everyone in the house could feel the momentum shifting the vistors’ way.
The key play, just prior to Iubel’s winner, was another red card on Napa Valley 1839 when Victor Calderon pulled down Carlos Montes on a breakaway.
While a draw may have been a just result, to El Farolito’s credit it continued to attack in the final seconds and were finally rewarded.
Both coaches noted it was early in the season, but Medina clearly felt Napa Valley 1839 let this one get away.
Next Saturday, April 14, Napa Valley 1839 travels to Davis while El Farolito will finally get its first home game when it hosts the Sacramento Gold at Boxer Stadium.