A revitalized Golden Gate Conference should provide some serious competition out in the West Region. The conference features a number of postseason regulars, including two former national champions in the Sacramento Gold and Sonoma County Sol. The conference also includes standout programs in CD Aguiluchos USA and EBFC Stompers as well as expansion side Napa Valley 1839 FC.
Sacramento Gold FC
Sacramento finished with a 7-7-0 record in 2016, good enough for a fourth place finish in the conference. They narrowly missed the playoffs. The Gold saw forward Jose Martinez (five goals) and Nico Gonzales (five assists) lead the attack last season while goalkeeper John Connolly was a steady presence between the posts.
This year the Gold expects a great deal from Daniel Lomeli, a returning player who suffered an injury and missed most of the 2016 season. He returns in great form and is sure to be an explosive offensive threat for the Gold in 2017. Armando Quezada will have big shoes to fill, replacing Connolly in goal after the veteran signed a pro contract in Australia. Quezada steps in after being a starter at Division I powerhouse UC Davis.
The Gold features a talented veteran coaching staff that includes Ruben Mora (head coach), Derek Evans (assistant coach), Gary Messing (assistant coach), and Dominic Jakubek (goalkeeper coach).
Mora stated that he fully expects the Gold to be back in the playoffs and contending for another regional championship and a second national championship in 2017.
Sonoma County Sol
The Sonoma County had an amazing 2016 season, finishing with an 8-4-2 record and making it all the way to the national title game. Even though they weren’t able to claim their second national championship, hopes are still extremely high for the 2017 season.
The Sol welcome the return of forward Diego Lopez, who led the team last season with an incredible tally of 12 goals. The team is also expecting big things from midfielder Allan Estrada defender Ryan Rohane in 2017.
The coaching staff is led by Vinny Cortezzo (head coach) and Juan Lojas (assistant coach).
Forward Angel Acevedo is excited about the team’s prospects for the upcoming season.
“I think we are going to have another solid year, we have the core group from last year returning and with some new additions I see us making another national title run.”
Lopez shared similar expectations, saying “if we stay positive and work hard, I think we can make it happen this year.”
CD Aguiluchos USA
CD Aguiluchos USA always has a competitive squad and 2016 was no exception as Simon Rawnsley earned a plethora of awards, including the league’s Golden Boot.
The team will surely be in the fold in 2017 in what looks to be one of the country’s most competitive conferences.
East Bay FC Stompers
There is a lot of excitement surrounding the Stompers in the 2017 season.
The 2016 squad finished with a 6-4-4 record and made the playoffs after finishing third in the conference. The 2016 squad featured the talented trio of forward Khalid Arramdani (five goals) and midfielders Eder Guzman and Arturo Gomez, who both finished with four assists. The three return in 2017 to lead the squad along with midfielder Jesse Kehoe. Newcomers expected to make an impact this season include former Bosnian pro Zano Mahic and 18-year-old Araron Cortes.
The Stompers’ veteran coaching staff includes Martin Sierra (head coach) and David Mahabali (technical director) as well as Alex Ortega (assistant coach) and Rob Santos (assistant coach).
General Manager Billy Forte has high expectations for 2017.
“I am pleased to see the transformation of the club back to the mindset it was founded on, the belief that we can win any game we play. The credit lies with Head Coach Martin Sierra, who has managed the club to where we are now, and the style of play brought by Technical Director David Mahabali. The team chemistry is all credited to the core guys we have rebuilt the Stompers around and the future players coming up in our system. We should be a contender for the West this season and for years to come.”
Napa Valley 1839 FC
Napa Valley 1839 FC is a newcomer to the Golden Gate, but is expected to make quite a splash thanks to a talented roster.
Players to watch for include midfielder Saiaz Saenz and forward Bryan Marin. Saenz, a hometown favorite from Napa, California was a standout at Niagara University, while Marin spent time with Club Guadalajara Chivas, Santos (U-17), and Cruz Azul (U-20).
The coaching staff is led by Jesus Medina.
General Manager Greg Volker is excited about the upcoming season.
“In our inaugural season, we hope to establish ourselves as the highest level sporting organization of any sport in the history of the Napa Valley. We want to create a family-friendly environment to ‘grow the game’ in a community known worldwide for its wines and be a showcase for local Napa Valley talent on the field.”
Photo Credit: Sonoma County Sol, Rose Shoen, Ruben Dominguez, Napa Valley 1839 FC