By Hayden Larsen/Napa Valley 1839 FC
Napa Valley 1839 FC hosted Contra Costa FC at Justin-Sienna High School’s Dodd Stadium with a strong crowd of almost 400 supporters to kick off their 2022 NPSL campaign. Contra Costa’s best chance of the first half came early in the fifth minute of the match, and Napa goalkeeper Carlos Ayala made a strong deflection against a shot on target to keep the game level. Both sides had opportunities to capitalize on corner kicks, to no effect in the first half.
Around the midway point of the first half, Napa striker Dario Pavon – from midfield – sent a pass forward to Pol Monells. Then Monells precisely passed the ball to the feet of Napa midfielder Oscar Ortiz, who was making a dangerous run on Contra Costa’s goal. Ortiz earned Napa a penalty kick after he was fouled by Contra Costa’s last line of defense, goalkeeper Jeremy Zielinski. The penalty was calmly placed in the lower right corner of Contra Costa’s net by Monells – who happened to be making his Napa 1839 club debut and ended up making his scoring debut in that moment. At the very end of the first half, Contra Costa created a great chance, as winger Fernando Lara forced another diving save by Ayala to keep Napa ahead at 1-0 at halftime.
The first action of the second half was a corner kick for Napa in the 53rd minute – a free kick taken by Monells which found the head of Pavon. The strike from Pavon was on target but was saved by Zielinski. In the 63rd minute, Contra Costa earned a penalty kick, which ended up being taken by Alonzo Del Mundo, who confidently placed the ball in the lower left corner of the goal as Ayala dove to his right. With the game tied up at 1–1, Napa began to press Contra Costa. Pavon harried Contra Costa’s defense to great effect, forcing a mistake by the back line that resulted in a goal for Pavon, moving the score line to 2-1 in favor of Napa in what was a spectacular solo effort.
Just three minutes later, Contra Costa found themselves at the other end with a chance to capitalize on a corner kick. Midfielder Adrian Guzman fired the ball into heavy traffic in Napa’s penalty box. It took a favorable bounce into the back of Napa’s net, equalizing the game to two goals apiece. Only around two minutes after allowing Contra Costa to equalize, Napa’s William Biondini and Miguel Galvan-Lara combined for a magnificent goal. Assisted by Biondini, Galvan-Lara launched a precision strike across the face of Contra Costa’s goal, and the ball bounced off the far upright before tucking into the back of Contra Costa’s net.
With the score at 3-2 in favor of Napa, 1839 continued to press numbers forward, positively looking for a goal to put the game out of reach. But for the final 10 minutes of regulation and stoppage time, they seemed to be under siege by a Contra Costa team desperate to equalize one more time. Contra Costa’s best last chance came on a free kick which was fired into Napa’s penalty box by Addison Escobar, which bounced off the head of his teammate and narrowly flew over Napa’s crossbar.
After the game, Napa 1839 head coach Mark Corbett said, “As well as we performed during preseason, the results are more important at this level going forward. This wasn’t our best performance, but after allowing them to equalize twice, it was good to get a positive result against a good, young, talented opponent.”
Napa 1839 can take several positives away from this match: a strong performance from the eventual Man of the Match, striker Dario Pavon, a strong debut from do-it-all midfielder Pol Monells, and an impactful performance – especially early – by goalkeeper Carlos Ayala, who prevented Napa from getting off on the wrong foot early. Postgame, Corbett also said that he can safely rely on a bench deep in talent, as their winning goal was a chance created and then scored by two players who were substituted in the second half.
Napa 1839 will host another game at home in two weeks when they face off against Academica SC. Contra Costa’s will be eager to right the ship in their conference next week as they play host to FC Davis.
Photo Credit: Miguel Garcia, MG Pro