This edition of the National Game of the Week will feature two of the league’s oldest and most established sides, East Bay FC Stompers and Sonoma County Sol FC. The Stompers are contenders in the Golden Gate Conference each season, while the Sol are best known for their national title in 2009.
"Our season has started off slow," EBFC's Billy Forte commented. "We took two draws and lost a close one to CD Aguiluchos. We had hoped to be sitting with more points, but it is a long season. We hope to be pushing for a top spot by the end of the season. If not first, then definitely hope to be in playoff contention. The parity in the Golden Gate Conference is going to be the top around the country we believe. It will be hard for any Golden Gate Conference team to ever get a national hosting seed in playoffs because every game is a dog fight."
A talented EBFC squad starts in the back with goalkeeper Luis "Manotas" Castro, who is in his first season with the Stompers. Castro is a former standout with the El Salvador national team in addition to serving as a player and manager for famed Salvadoran side C.D. Fas. Defender Prince Bere, a past NPSL Player Showcase participant, is in his fourth season with the Stompers. Midfielder Zanin Mahic is in his second season with Stompers. Forward Khalid Arramdani is in his fifth season with the Stompers. He is a two-time NPSL Player Showcase selection and the club's all-time leading goalscorer in league play.
The stats show a balanced East Bay side. Mahic, Bere, and forward Gustavo Tavera-Rico are in a three-way tie for the team lead in goals. Mahic and Tavera-Rico are in a two-way tie in assists. Castro has played all 270 minutes, allowing a total of four goals and only two in the first 180 minutes.
The level of parity and competition in the Golden Gate is quite impressive, especially with the introduction of several quality expansion sides. Simply put, this is going to be quite a matchup.
"Sol have struggled in the early season allowing eight goals in first two games," Sonoma County head coach Vinnie Cortezzo added. "Our third game versus FC Davis was an improvement on the defensive side of the game, but unfortunately we struggled to create and score goals. The conference looks to be extremely competitive, with many ties and one-goal games. It will be a very interesting battle for the playoff spots. Our sights are on earning a playoff spot and making a run at the league title."
Sonoma County is led by a veteran side that is absolutely loaded with experience. Goalkeeper Sean Taufer and Chris Rodd lead the defense, while midfielder Michel Arroyo and forward Omar Nuno lead the way in the attack. Rodd is a former pro that spent time in Norway before signing with the famed New York Cosmos. Nuno leads the Sol in goals with four goals in three games.
Photo Credit: Rose Shoen, Donnie Graham, EBFC Staff, and Nap Ba