If the first NPSL National Game of the Week this season is any indication, 2016 will be quite an exciting year.
Sacramento Gold FC and CD Aguiluchos USA combined for eight goals – six of them in the second half – as the home squad prevailed by a score of 5-3 in a wild affair at Capital Christian High School Saturday.
Both Jose “Cuco” Martinez and Diego De Alba scored twice for Sacramento, while Josue Araiza netted the eventual game-winner. Ross Middlemiss, Simon Rawnsley, and Jorge Ruiz found the back of the net for Aguiluchos.
The game was a rematch of the 2015 West Region Final, a 4-3 win for Aguiluchos. The visitors wasted little time once they returned to the scene. Only seven minutes into the game, Middlemiss dribbled to the top left of the box and chipped the ball at the goal. The ball sailed over the hands
of Sacramento goalkeeper John Connolly, bouncing off the crossbar and across the goal line while giving Aguiluchos an early 1-0 lead.
Though CDA was controlling the possession through the first half hour, it was the hosts who struck next. In the 32nd minute, Danny Lomeli whipped in a cross from the right side to the center of the box. Martinez timed his run up the middle perfectly, directing it to the left of Aguiluchos goalkeeper Robert Doeland and tying the score at 1-1.
Following a series of substitutions early in the second half, one of the newcomers helped break the tie. In the 61st minute, Ruiz sent a nice through ball to Rawnsley up the middle. Rawnsley put it past Connolly and into the left corner of the net to give the visitors the lead again at 2-1.
But then, the Gold offense turned the tide of the game. In the 70th minute, it was Lomeli again –this time from the left side – sending a cross towards goal. The long ball was collected by Andrew Robles and sent across goal to Martinez, who tapped in for his second goal the game and a 2-2 score line.
Four minutes later, Lomeli stole the ball from the defense deep in CDA’s half. Lomeli passed to Chimdum Mez, who found De Alba at the top of the box. De Alba smacked the ball past Doeland and into the back of the net, giving Sacramento its first lead of the game at 3-2.
With ten minutes left in regulation, Josue Araiza – subbed on two minutes earlier – took the ball down the left hand side of the box and passed it to Martinez in the center. Martinez gave it right back, allowing Araiza a run at goal. Araiza smashed it by Doeland and extended the Gold lead to 4-2.
The visitors cut into the lead in the 86th minute thank to a defensive lapse by the Gold. Ruiz snuck around the defensive line, finding himself alone in the box and with the ball following a cross from the right side. Ruiz made no mistake, halving the deficit and putting the score at 4-3.
With the game in stoppage time and Sacramento trying to kill the clock, Cesar Mendoza was brought down for a free kick about 25 yards from goal. Following the setup and whistle for the kick, De Alba noticed Doeland was standing above the penalty spot and out of position. Taking advantage, De Alba sent the kick into the open net before Doeland could react, putting the game out of the reach at 5-3.
Though it was Sacramento’s offense which won the game, it was the Aguiluchos offense which had control over the game early on. Five minutes in – and two minutes before his goal –Middlemiss launched a shot from about 20 yards out which – had it not been blocked by Zach Ulrich – was destined for goal. On the next possession, Jesus Morales got in position to fire a shot, which went just left of the post.
Aguiluchos nearly doubled the lead in the 24th minute when Morales sent in a cross from the left side of the box. The ball floated over the Gold defense and onto the foot of Rawnsley, who was waiting at the right post. However, Rawnsley’s one-timer was inches wide of the post.
This kicked off a back-and-forth stretch of offensive assaults from both teams. In the 27th minute, Danny Mititelu got his head on a Sacramento free kick, sending the ball a foot wide of the left post. One minute later, Morales attempted a daring scissor kick directly off a cross from the middle. However, Fernando De Alba got a foot on it and deflected it out for a corner kick.
Following a clearance from the corner kick, Adan Martinez got himself free down the right hand side. With the visitors seemingly about to go up by two goals, Connolly came up big for the hosts, sliding down, stopping Martinez, and winning the ball back. Connolly’s save proved to be even more crucial as, three minutes later, the Gold tied the game.
In the 37th minute, Rawnsley sped ahead of the Sacramento defenders and put himself one-on-one with Connolly on the left side. Connolly came out and, despite Rawnsley going by, was able to influence the run enough for the ball to go off Rawnsley and out for a goal kick.
The Gold got another scare in the dying moments of the first half. As a loose ball bounced around at the top of the box, Morales pounced and sent a curling ball straight at the bottom corner of the net. However, Connolly was up to the task, stretching out to block the ball from going in.
In the second half, there were few good chances which didn’t end up with the ball in the back of the net. One of those came in the 49th minute, when Middlemiss again made himself a menace to the Sacramento defense. Running down the right side, Middlemiss made a nifty move to get by Rene Piña and into the box. However, Piña made an even better recovery, spinning around and sliding down to knock the ball away for an Aguiluchos throw-in.
Another happened in the 73rd minute, in between Sacramento’s second and third goals. Ruiz made a tough run down the left hand side, wiggling his way past a pair of defenders and heading towards goal on the back line. However, Connolly made another great play, leaping out and snatching the ball away from Ruiz. In the end, other than Ruiz’s goal later on, it was the last dangerous chance for Aguiluchos, as the Gold offense snatched control of the game.
This game proved to be another offensive affair between these two teams. In the last four games between the two, Sacramento Gold FC and CD Aguiluchos USA have combined for a whopping 23 goals. 15 of those have come in the last two games alone.
The teams now head in opposite directions. Aguiluchos will return to the comforts of home and a contest against the East Bay Stompers on Saturday, April 9. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. PT at Raimondi Park. Sacramento, meanwhile, enters into its first bye week of the season. The Gold will next be in action at home on Saturday, April 16 against Real San Jose. The game is scheduled for 7 p.m. PT at Capital Christian High School.