The Sonoma County Sol have put on some serious miles in the playoffs, traveling to San Diego, Chattanooga, and now Cleveland in their journey to play for a second national title. While some might be discouraged by playing on the road, the Sol have come to embrace it. They’ve mastered the art of the red-eye and have had a good time doing it.
“It’s fun traveling to see different cities to play soccer,” Sol defender/forward Taylor Varnadore commented. “It’s my first trip to Ohio and I am looking forward to Cleveland.”
Teammate Justin Ferreira said that the “team travels well,” while Varnadore says that the Sol have a “good focus on the road.” Being a lower seed in the playoffs meant the Sol would play on the road. Even if they won every game they wouldn’t be hosting the national final.
Varnadore joined Sonoma County in the 2010 season, the year after the Sol won their first NPSL title. He has enjoyed being part of the winning legacy that the team has established, a legacy that includes a national title in 2009 and three other national title game appearances including this weekend’s matchup. They are a team that isn’t used to losing, a program that has been a dominant force in the Golden Gate Conference, claiming seven conference titles over the years. No wonder the Sol players hold themselves to a higher standard.
They are an experienced team, one that has been in high-stakes games before. They have a great mix of veterans and youth with players ranging from 17 to 33 years of age.
Many have full-time jobs and have to juggle their everyday lives with training twice a week and lots and lots of travel. Varnadore happens to work in the winemaking industry, something Sonoma County is known for worldwide.
“Sometimes it’s a challenge to get off work. One of our players couldn’t make it last week and ended up watching the national semifinal on his computer at work.”
Many soccer pundits don’t know about the Sonoma County soccer scene, but Varnadore says there is an incredible amount of talent in the area.
“Our team is completely made up of local talent. Many had the talent to play D-I soccer, but just weren’t seen by the right people.”
That talent includes a number of players that won all-league honors this season. Defender Nicholas “Ebby” Lombardi and forward Diego “Toluca” Lopez found themselves on both the All-NPSL Team and the NPSL Supporters’ XI. Lombardi has been a dominant outside back all season long, while Lopez finished the regular season with nine goals and five assists. Varnadore may be the best player on the Sol, especially considering his versatility and ability to change a game.
It’s easy to see that the Sol won’t be put off by thousands of miles of travel and they won’t be intimidated by an unfamiliar opponent.
“I don’t know anything about AFC Cleveland,” Varnadore admitted. “But we love playing teams we don’t know. Once the game starts, it just takes five or ten minutes to figure out what’s going on.”
The Sol will arrive in Cleveland on Friday and will begin their time in the Buckeye State with a training session. Varnadore is obviously very excited about the opportunity to earn more hardware for his team. He believes that the Sol have what it takes to win it all.
“We have the grit and savvy of the older players, which should help our younger guys who haven’t been in a game like this before. We are a tightknit group. We all love the game and train as hard as possible.”