Real San Jose moved into first place in the West Region’s Golden Gate Conference with a 3-1 over Sacramento Gold FC at Mt. Pleasant High School in the Game of the Week.

San Jose scored early and used the counter attack to topple the Gold, who played with nine men after two red cards in the 53rd minute.

Jake Wiffen led San Jose with two goals, while Joseph Kirel added on another. Sacramento’s lone goal came from an own goal off a San Jose defender late in the game.

Looking to make good on an opportunity to take first place, San Jose came out of the gates firing. After Danny Mititelu was given a yellow for a rough foul just outside the Gold box, San Jose’s free kick in the third minute provided a quick test for Sacramento goalkeeper John Connolly, who was able to make the save.

It was a different story just four minutes later. Receiving the pass near the top of the box, Wiffen cut to his right and fired a right-footed shot that flew just past Connolly’s hands and into the right corner of the net. Just like that, the hosts had a 1-0 lead.

Sacramento nearly equalized just two minutes afterwards. Abrahm Prado lofted a long distance shot which struck the San Jose crossbar. The rebound fell to Josue Araiza, but San Jose’s defense was able to clear the ball before another shot could be taken.

The next big chance came in the 20th minute, when Danny Lamelli ripped a shot from deep that San Jose goalkeeper Jairo Zermeno was able to save. Araiza scooped up the rebound and looked to equalize. However, Zermeno was able to get up and block the ensuing shot.

San Jose countered in the 25th minute. Weefen took the ball at the top of the box and sent a backheel pass behind to free a streaking Jose Avalos. Avalos’ attempt was thwarted by a quick save from Connolly.

A neat bit of play gave Sacramento another good chance in the 36th minute. Prado sent a chip through the middle to Andrew Robles, whose header sailed just over the crossbar. San Jose got another scare from Lamelli one minute later with a laser shot from deep. That too was just over the bar.

In the final minutes of the half, Prado sent in a curling shot on goal that was deflected out for a corner. Mititelu got his head on the ensuing kick, though his effort was over the bar. This meant San Jose went to the locker room with a 1-0 lead over the visitors.

Real began the second half with a strong effort towards goal. Edwin Luna showed off his footwork with a quick move into the left of the box. However, Connolly’s anticipation paid off, as the goalkeeper scooped up Luna’s challenge.

The game took a drastic turn in the 53rd minute. San Jose took advantage of a stretched Sacramento with a through ball to Luna on the counter attack. With Luna streaking towards goal, Zach Ulrich dragged him down from behind. The whistle blew and San Jose was given a penalty kick.

The red card came out, but was first issued to Connolly for dissent after he voiced his displeasure at the call. The red card then turned on Ulrich for the previous foul. Just like that, Sacramento was down to nine men and deprived of their starting keeper.

Backup goalkeeper Max Herrera replaced the displaced Connolly in net. Despite not having played in net all season, Herrera managed to correctly dive to his right to deny Luna and save the penalty kick.

With two less players on the field, the game began to open up. Oddly, nine-man Sacramento got the next good chance. In the 59th minute, the Gold won a corner kick. However, Mititelu’s bicycle kick sailed just right of the goalpost.

One minute later, Fernando Cabadas played a nice through ball up the middle to a streaking Prado. Zermeno was up to the task and stopped the rush.

San Jose doubled its lead two minutes later. The Gold’s shortage of defenders left Wiffen alone at the left corner of the box. Faking left, Wiffen was able to fool Herrera with a chip shot into the right corner of the net to make it 2-0 for Real.

Sacramento looked to half the deficit in the 73rd minute when Araiza managed to get free up the right side. However, San Jose’s defense was able to put a stop to the attack and force a goal kick.

Though the Gold took possession back on the kick, RSJ stole the ball and sent Kirel to lead a three-on-one attack on goal. With options on both sides, Kirel froze the defender and poked the ball past Herrera to make it a 3-0 lead for the hosts.

Beaten twice in the last twelve minutes, Herrera nevertheless made several spectacular saves to keep the game from getting out of hand. In the 77th minute, recently subbed-in Salifu Jatta was freed up the middle. His dangerous chance was cut out by a sliding Herrera.

Only a minute later, Wiffen looked to cap off his hat trick with a nice run on the left side. However, Herrera was up to the task, stopping Wiffen with a diving challenge. Wiffen stayed down after the play and had to be helped off the field.

Shortly after play resumed, Avalos took the centering pass and fired a shot up the middle. A fourth goal for San Jose was denied by Herrera, who deflected it with his chest to stop the challenge.

Sacramento received a little consolation in the 89th minute. The Gold crossed the ball into the box, where it eventually fell to a San Jose defender. An attempted clearance instead ricocheted off a teammate’s head and into the back of the net.

Despite the own goal, the end result was still unchanged. With the win, San Jose moves into first place in the Golden Gate Conference with ten points. Sacramento falls from first to third at nine points, just behind CD Aguiluchos USA on goals scored.

San Jose will attempt to maintain its hold on first place in a showdown with regional power Sonoma County Sol. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. on Sunday, May 3 at Mt. Pleasant High School.

Sacramento looks to rebound with a win in a highly-anticipated matchup with Northwest powerhouse Spartans FC. The Gold will take on the visitors from Portland on May 3 at Capital Christian High School. Kickoff is scheduled for 3 p.m

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