By Hayden Larsen/Napa Valley 1839 FC
Napa Valley 1839 FC got off to a rapid start as striker Dario Pavon slipped a clinical ball through to Paris Martins on the wing, who then assisted forward Joe Restani in scoring the first goal. From there, Napa 1839 enjoyed extended periods of possession. From the beginning, Napa 1839’s backline looked impenetrable despite missing two of their primary defenders, Sal Gomez (injury) and Gerardo Mendoza (illness). Both players are fixtures of that back line, and Mendoza is regularly the captain.
Napa 1839 head coach Mark Corbett emphasized depth in a recent interview.
“There is a lot of strength in depth, for sure, the guys who are not getting a lot of opportunities deserve a lot of credit for where we are in the table because they are pushing the guys every single session in training, trying to get that spot, and it’s making our guys who are getting the chance right now go up in levels because they know they’ve got someone trying to take their spot if they do take it lightly in practice,” Corbett said.
This was made exceedingly obvious as Napa emptied their bench in the second half once the game was firmly in hand. Just as Corbett asked, his players played with urgency throughout the match.
Napa dominated in possession and scoring opportunities throughout the first hour of the game. The score was 3-0 in Napa’s favor before Oakland even managed an attempt to shoot on target. After a poor shot from Oakland, Napa launched a quick counterattack to the opposite end, where Restani assisted winger Pol Monells in scoring 1839’s fourth goal of the game. Restani snagged his brace with another goal of his own in the 64th minute.
Napa’s goalscoring culminated in the 80th minute with a sixth goal by Martins, who displayed exceptional awareness in capitalizing on an error by Oakland’s goalkeeper and one of their defenders.
While there were many worthy possibilities, Martins was named man of the match by Napa 1839 after the game for his dominant attacking and defending play on the right wing. Martins – who has played every minute of the season for Napa through five games – said after the match that despite the heavy workload, he feels great. Through five games, Martins has displayed a remarkably high motor, working end to end for ninety – or slightly more – minutes per game.
Martins praised his teammates in a postgame interview.
“1839, we’re ready,” Martins said. “Right now, we are playing for each other. We are playing for 1839.”
The team is oozing in confidence and team spirit in the wake of a strong 4-1 record.
It is difficult to say just how significant this win is for Napa. The Oakland Stompers have not had the start to their season they would have liked, though they did earn a draw against Contra Costa FC in their previous match. Regardless, 1839 did their job in maintaining a perfect home record this season while improving overall to an impressive 4-11 record midway through the regular season.
At this midway point, it is safe to say they have won a number of different ways. They have won back-and-forth nail biters. They have won nervously while nursing a one-goal lead, and they have dominated opponents that were second best. They have also tasted defeat and understand the importance of finishing a game out and staying focused. 1839 have the requisite skill and experience they need for a potentially deep playoff run, but with still half of the regular season to come, only time will tell if they can finish the job.
Napa goes on the road on Saturday, May to face the Sacramento Gold in Sacramento. The Oakland Stompers return home to play Academica SC on May 7, 2022.
Photo Credit: Mauricio Arreola