CD Aguiluchos USA remained perfect in the 2017 NPSL regular season Sunday night, notching its fifth win by shutting out the East Bay FC Stompers 2-0 at Pioneer Stadium.
Ross Middlemiss and Simon Rawnsley combined to provide the Aguiluchos with their twin goals, while the Stompers struggled to finish on the chances they created in a game that, for a long time, was much closer than the final scoreline would indicate.
Middlemiss opened the scoring in the 54th minute when he headed a ball past Stompers goalkeeper Alejandro Escobedo, placing the ball perfectly against the left post where Escobedo could do nothing to stop it.
As the game entered the last 15 minutes, the Stompers — who struggled in front of goal all day — were given a chance to equalize and swing momentum in the match when a hand ball was called inside the Aguiluchos box. But team captain Jesse Kehoe chipped the penalty kick up and off the crossbar, narrowly missing the chance to level the game at 1-1.
The Aguiluchos sealed the game in the 87th minute, when a hand ball was once again called, this time against the Stompers. The 2016 NPSL Golden Boot winner, Simon Rawnsley, buried his penalty kick in the back left corner of the goal to put the Aguiluchos up 2-0.
The game was a tale of two halves, with the Stompers showing impressive resilience and tenacity while controlling possession and creating chances early on, before succumbing to the potent Aguiluchos attack after the break. There were several moments in the first half when it appeared as if the Stompers would actually take the lead, but the teams went into the locker room without a score, and the second half would prove more fruitful for the Aguiluchos.
Both teams were playing with short benches due to the buildup of injuries throughout the season. One bright spot for the Stompers was Escobedo, who was pressed into action for the first time due to an injury to Jose Majano and a red card suspension for Victor Meraz.
Escobedo played well in the loss, making several key saves to keep his team in the game as long as he could. Stompers head coach Martin Sierra praised the newcomer’s play at halftime and at the game’s conclusion, saying Escobedo had shown promise in practice. Sierra said he was happy to see him translate it to in-game success.
But the Stompers coach was less happy with those on the roster who were not available for the game.
“We showed up today with 12,” he said after the game. “We have 25-30 (players) on the roster. If we get everybody out there, it is a different ballgame.”
Despite the shaky first half, Aguiluchos coach Frank Juarez said he was pleased with his team’s performance.
“I expected a win today,” said Juarez. “We have had a lot of injuries, but we have good replacement players, and we got a win.”
East Bay now has a chance to recover and return the team to full strength during its two consecutive bye weeks before heading up to Napa to play Napa Valley 1839 FC on May 13. The Aguiluchos will take on Napa first, playing the expansion side on April 30.