Visitors hand Stompers an emphatic loss, leaving NPSL playoff spot just out of reach with one game remaining

East Bay FC’s late-season pursuit of a berth in the NPSL postseason came to an abrupt end Saturday night when fellow dark-horse playoff contender Sonoma County Sol came into Pioneer Stadium and handed the home side a 4-0 rout behind two goals from Diego Lopez, a resounding loss that stands as the Stompers’ worst result of 2017.

“It all came down to who wanted it more,” Stompers head coach Martin Sierra said. “They came out to play; we took this game light. We knew what was at stake, and we came out and didn’t do what we were supposed to do.”

The loss leaves East Bay FC in fourth place on the Golden Gate Conference table, five points behind second-place Sacramento Gold FC, with only a matchup between the two teams remaining on both schedules. Sonoma County leapfrogged the Stompers into third place, just three points behind Sacramento with two games remaining.

The Sol opened the scoring in the seventh minute and led 3-0 by halftime. East Bay, which looked flat at both ends of the field, was never able to control possession for long stretches and consistently attack the goal the way Sonoma County did throughout the game. By the time Lopez slipped past the Stompers defense, ran onto a ball played directly through the center circle and finished off his brace in the 78th minute, the outcome had long since ceased to be in doubt.

“Playing together as a unit, that was the biggest problem,” Sierra said. “Individually, we’re great. As a team, we struggle a little bit. We had flashes of brilliance, but that’s not going to win a game. It’s gotta be for 90 minutes.”

Perhaps the lone bright spot for East Bay FC (3-2-6) came in the 40th minute, when goalkeeper Marcus Rojas denied a penalty kick — not to mention a point-blank rebound shot — by Sonoma’s Brenton Frame. Rojas remained perfect with his third save in three PK attempts on the season, but the Stompers couldn’t turn the big play into any momentum before the halftime whistle.

Ryan Rohane got Sonoma (3-4-3) on the board early when he redirected a corner kick from Lopez into the net from directly in front. Omar Nuno headed another in from a cross in the 28th minute, and Lopez notched his first goal of the game when he took a pass behind the East Bay defense, rounded Rojas and finished from out wide in the 36th minute.

The Stompers wrap up their regular season on July 1 against Sacramento (4-4-3); Gold FC will be hunting a win as it tries to stay ahead of Sonoma County, which holds the tiebreaker advantage thanks to its 1-2-0 record against Sacramento.

“We just want to get out there, pick up three points, get that win, and finish off on a good note,” Sierra said. “We just want to go finish off the season with a win and start working for next season already.”

The Sol finish by visiting Golden Gate Conference leader CD Aguiluchos USA (8-1-2) on July 2, then hosting Napa Valley 1839 FC (1-5-5) on July 8. San Leandro-based CD Aguiluchos USA has dropped two straight games, while Napa Valley logged the club’s first NPSL win Saturday by beating Aguiluchos 1-0 at home.

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