The 2018 NPSL season kicks off Saturday, March 10th with Napa Valley 1839 FC hosting Academica SC. The matchup features two Golden Gate Conference teams: Napa Valley in its second NPSL season and Academica an expansion NPSL side that joined in November 2017.
Arik Housley, owner of Napa Valley 1839 FC, is looking forward to the 2018 season.
“We believe our successes will exceed last year. We had outstanding attendance and fan base in season one and we look to exceed that for season two. We are very excited about the level of talent growing in our area, so we couldn’t be more excited to showcase that talent to the league.”
That level of talent is impressive on both teams. Napa is led by two experienced players in Max Alvarez and Lukas Schubert. Alvarez has spent time with USL sides Sacramento Republic and St. Louis FC, while Schubert most recently starred for Derry City FC in Ireland. Academica is expecting big performances from midfielder Gerardo Cazares and defender Brennen Canfield.
Housley praised Alvarez, a Napa native, for his outstanding technical ability and Schubert for his high-level experience in both Austria and Ireland.
“In our community day game, Alvarez snuck a peak at the goal from 60 yards out and noticed the keeper playing off his line. He hit a laser shot and dropped it dead-center of the goal and first bounce dropped just past the line. So, he is a newcomer to Napa Valley 1839 FC, but returning home. Also, keep an eye out for Lukas Schubert, who played in Austria and Ireland. Schubert was the captain of his team in Derry and has decided to join a less rainy climate. He has great technical skill and can run all day long.”
A technical midfielder, Cazares captained the team to a league championship last fall and the club’s first-ever U.S. Open Cup match victory. He’s a local player that starred at CSU Stanislaus. Canfield, who captained UC Merced to their first-ever national ranking last season, received NAIA National Defender of the Week and Cal Pac All-Conference First Team honors in 2018.
Napa went 1-5-6 in league play last year, but several of the draws and losses came in the closing moments. The club has already seen improvement in 2018 with a preseason victory and a high-profile international friendly already under their belt. It’s easy to say that expectations are very high for 2018.
Simon Bettencourt, Academica’s GM, is equally optimistic about his new NPSL club.
“We’ve stepped up training to three times a week and have been working extra hard in order to be ready for this first test. We’re excited to finally start the season and the players are showing that. We want to be competitive right out of the gate. We don’t believe in a settling-in period and we want to show that to our opponents. Our goal is to be playing in July in the regional playoffs.”
Bettencourt added that his team’s playing style should be one that is enjoyed by all.
“We’re going to play an attacking brand of soccer with a lot of work ethic, something that we hope will entertain the fans.”
Housley believes that this will be a great matchup, something fitting for the first game of a historic 2018 NPSL season.
“Academica is a good team. We saw them win the lower league and they definitely have some talent. We are excited to kick off the season with them coming to Memorial Stadium in Napa.”
“Having played their reserve team in LIGA NorCal, we got to see how good they really are,” Bettencourt concluded. “They gave us a tough match and I’m expecting this next one to be even harder. They have experience in this league over us, but we’re hoping we can surprise them. We’re also expecting a great atmosphere; they’re known for having a big fan base.”