Dramatic. There is no better way of describing the Napa Valley 1839 FC and Sacramento Gold rivalry. Their first meeting of the season concluded in a 1-1 draw after a wonder strike from Sacramento’s Danny Mititelu stunned everyone in stoppage time at Capital Christian High School. This brought back memories of May 6, 2017 meeting in which Gold leveled 1839 FC in the final minute of that match thanks to a goal from forward Roberto Mendoza. Saturday when it looked like history would repeat itself yet again, but Napa goalkeeper Javier Valdez Raya said no. A penalty call in favor of Sacramento Gold came in the 92nd minute, but Valdez remained calm and, under huge pressure, made a penalty save that made fans and his teammates erupt in joy.
The 300-plus fans present didn’t have to wait long to be entertained. Napa, which entered the match with regular starters out due to injury, didn’t seem to be affected. In the 20th minute 1839 FC striker Francisco Mendoza would have his first attempt at goal, taking a shot that went just wide. Sacramento would respond with an attempt of their own coming from striker Matthew Wiesenfarth on a ball that Valdez controlled securely.
Napa slowly went on to control the midfield with Nomialay Hashim, newcomer Eberardo Lopez and Osvaldo “Balon” Vazquez playing together for the first time.
“I felt good, we played compacted and our chemistry just grew as the minutes passed,” said Lopez, who along with center back Keagan Angevin played their first minutes of the season. “I’m glad that we were able to pull off the win for the fans, we’ve been working hard and deserve this.”
Compacted play indeed resulted in positivity for the Wine Country side. The threat of strikers Bryan Marin, Francisco Mendoza, and Lukas Schubert along with a midfield that connected well caused problems for Sacramento’s back line that was led by center back Dominik Jakubek. Fortunately for Sacramento only one of many chances made it past goalkeeper Hector Grajeda. In the 45th minute a Lukas Schubert would play a ball to Eberardo Lopez, who at midfield combined with Bryan Marin. Using his speed Marin would dribble past Sacramento Gold’s left defenders to assist Mendoza and get fans celebrating just before halftime with a 1-0 lead.
The happy moment in the first half was the only goal that fans would get to celebrate. Going into the second half Napa saw no changes in substitutions nor in the game plan. The threat of Marin, Schubert, and Mendoza remained but it was Valdez who stole the remainder of the show.
Sacramento looked to tie the match and in the 60th minute got the opportunity to do so via Aroon Molina. The midfielder received a ball, controlled it outside Napa’s 18-yard box and took a well-placed shot that Valdez saved leaving fans amazed. Only 10 minutes passed for Sacramento to get another shot at equalizing the match. In the 71st minute after a cross Sacramento Gold saw a series of rebounds in Valdez’ box in which the goalkeeper saved two shots before a defender cleared the ball.
It all seemed as Napa would walk away with the win despite not capitalizing on their chances and Sacramento being unlucky on their opportunities, but that wouldn’t be the case. In the final minutes of the match Sacramento Gold would be awarded a free kick. After a scramble in Napa’s box both Sacramento Gold and Napa Valley 1839 FC had players on the ground. The referee would point to the spot and award the Gold with one final chance to repeat history.
Valdez, who in Napa’s preseason game against Mexican side Monarcas Morelia Premier saved a penalty, would repeat history of his own. Valdez would make the save and secure Napa three points, which puts them back in playoff contention. “
“It felt amazing, our fans went crazy and I started shaking,” said the Berkeley native who is in his second season with the Wine Country side. “It’s something goalkeepers dream of.”
With the victory Napa Valley 1839 FC cuts a five-game losing streak while Sacramento Gold remains winless in the 2018 season. Napa will now have two bye weeks before visiting San Francisco’s El Farolito on June 2nd.
Contributor: Daniel Morales/Napa Valley 1839 FC
Photo Credit: Ian Burgeson