The 2018 NPSL season got off to a cold, wet, and chilly start as the downpour of rain fell from the sky during the pregame.  Once the rain let up, the sky opened up for a beautiful night of soccer at Cal State University, East Bay in Hayward, CA.

The East Bay FC Stompers would host one of their newest Golden Gate Conference opponents, El Farolito of San Francisco.  Farolito, a team rich in history and bay area soccer tradition, was a giant of the SFSFL, having raised the championship trophy numerous times in their club’s history.  They have also won one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious soccer tournaments, finishing as champions of the U.S. Open Cup in 1993.

The Stompers are a club deeply rooted in the East Bay for decades, but first entered the NPSL in San Francisco and called the City by the Bay home from 2012-2015.  Both clubs are well aware of each other, but have never faced off in an official match until now.  The contest was no letdown for the spectators who chose to tough it out on a cold night in anticipation of a classic Bay Area rivalry.

The game featured eight yellow cards and two sendoffs, one for each side, as to be expected in a heated rivalry.  A majority of the fouls were the result of physical hard play.  Despite the physicality of the match, it was a relatively clean game.  In the early going Stompers defender Prince Bere was issued a yellow card in the 20th minute for a challenge for a ball going over the end-line.

As the game progressed both sides took turns controlling the ball and creating chances.  Neither goalkeeper was challenged by anything too dangerous until the Stompers struck first in the in the 28th.  The Stompers were awarded a promising free kick right outside of the box.  Midfielder Ali Radmand stepped up to the kick and hit a shot that deflected off of the side of the wall to Stompers striker Gustavo Tavera-Rico, also known as “GTR,” who placed the shot past the diving Farolito goalkeeper.

The whistle blew for halftime and the Stompers held a slim 1-0 advantage over El Farolito.

A few changes were made at the half for El Farolito and the Stompers remained with their initial 11 starters.  The changes that El Farolito made gave them a better grip on the possession in the second half where the Stompers seemed poised to protect their lead and selectively counter attack.  El Farolito continued moving the ball in to the Stompers half, but could not break through the Stompers stout backline and trouble EBFC goalkeeper Luis “Manotas” Castro.

A few more yellow cards were issued to both sides later in the game.  In the 75th, El Farolito player Manuel Garcia was issue a straight red card for a “cleats up” challenge, just 10 minutes after being subbed in to the match.  Despite being down a man, El Farolito continued to push to search for the equalizer.  Again the Stompers seemed poised to try to contain and attack with quick strikes to Khalid Arramdani and Rajaee Delane, who both entered the game as second-half substitutes.  Multiple breaks, that seemed as if the Stompers might have the second goal coming shortly, ended up being stopped by the Farolito defense and the solid play of the visiting goalkeeper.

Late in the match in stoppage time, an El Farolito winger pushed to get around Stompers defender Luis “Luigi” Castillo, who stretched out to get the ball and took down the player in the box.  The play was whistled and a penalty kick was given. Castillo was awarded his second yellow card of the match, resulting in a red card and the game now being played with 10 men per side.

Janson Salton stepped up to the penalty spot and placed the shot into the lower right corner as the EBFC goalkeeper guessed right and blocked the shot.  The rebound went back to the shooter, who placed the ball in the back of the net and equalized with virtually no time remaining in the game.

The end result left both sides feeling like they should have walked away with more points.  The spectators, who braved the cold weather, got what they came to see, a high-level local soccer match between two of the Bay Area’s classic teams.  The game was a hard-fought physical game by both sides that featured an array of cards, two ejections, and a last-minute equalizer.  This will definitely set the tone for the next Stompers vs. El Farolito match on Saturday, May 12, in San Francisco at Boxer Stadium, the former home stadium of the Stompers.  That game will feature a noon kickoff.

The Stompers will now go on the road to face FC Davis next Saturday at Aggie Football Stadium at UC Davis for a 7:00 pm kickoff.  El Farolito will be on the road again in Sonoma County to face the Sol at Casa Grande HS on March 24 at 7:00 pm.

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