Getting injured in a national title match has to be a gut-wrenching experience, one that Sonoma County Sol defender Justin Ferreira knows all too well. He went down with an injury five minutes before halftime in the 2013 NPSL National Championship. He was on the sidelines as his team fell 2-0 to RVA FC, ending the team’s run towards a second national title.
But Ferreira has another chance to claim hardware for the Sol, a team that is one game away from the 2016 NPSL National Championship. Something stands in their way and that is a worthy opponent in Chattanooga FC.
“This is a game we have been waiting for,” Ferreira commented. “We are ecstatic for the opportunity. They are an amazing organization. It’s going to be fun; it certainly keeps it exciting.”
This is the first matchup between the two experienced sides.
Both teams have been standard-bearers for the league, having unprecedented success on and off the field. The Sol have become an iconic brand in Northern California thanks to their winning legacy, while CFC has broken records for attendance and have been a model for others to follow in the South Region. They are truly the trendsetters and leaders of their respective regions.
This is literally a game that has been years in the making and should be one of the best matchups in recent history. The Sol have seven conference titles, three national title game appearances (2005, 2009, 2013), and one national title (2009) under their belt.
CFC has won five consecutive conference titles and has been in the last two national title games. Chattanooga also broke the U.S. amateur soccer attendance record last year with 18,227 in attendance on August 8th.
“We’re really looking forward to it,” Ferreira added. “Not a lot of the guys have been to Tennessee. The atmosphere will be different. It will make communication difficult.”
The veteran defender, who first joined Sonoma County in 2006, thinks that his team will be able to adjust to the large crowd expected at Finley Stadium. He recalled that the Sol played in front of 10,000 in a U.S. Open Cup matchup against USL side Sacramento Republic in 2015.
Ferreira, who also spent time with Santa Rosa JC and Sonoma State University, also said that his team “travels well” and actually won the national title on the road in 2009.
The Golden Gate Conference continues to impress and improve, making it difficult to roll through the regular season unscathed. It wasn’t an easy journey in 2016 according to Ferreira.
“Our regular season was difficult. It was a grind. The Golden Gate is a savvy conference and Oakland, Sacramento, and the East Bay are tough places to play. We really came together in the second half of the season. We found our rhythm.”
Despite the challenges and obstacles, the Sol finished first in the conference with an 8-4-2 record. Sonoma County would reach this year’s national semifinals with three massive postseason wins against East Bay FC Stompers (3-1), North County Battalion (3-0), and Albion SC Pros (1-0).
Ferreira happens to be the only active Sol player to play every position, including goalkeeper. He was called upon as an emergency keeper on one occasion. This is in addition to his regular duties at right and center back.
The 28-year-old provided a list of five players “to watch for” against Chattanooga. The list included Taylor Varnadore, Luke La Vanway, Diego Lopez, Noah Paravicini, and Nicholas Lombardi.
Varnadore is another veteran player, one that started with the Sol at the same time as Ferreira. He is very versatile and proves to be a standout as a center back and forward. La Vanway, Lopez, and Paravicini are keys to the Sol’s potent attack, an offense that finished with 40 goals in the regular season. Lombardi, Ferreira’s college teammate, has proven to be a valuable asset as an outside back after returning to the Sol from playing in Germany.
As you can see it will take a total team effort for the Sonoma County Sol to advance to the national title game on August 6th, but it is a challenge that Ferreira thinks they are ready for.