By Thomas Viola
Napa Valley 1839 FC began their inaugural season in the National Premier Soccer League with a disappointing 2-1 loss to CD Aguiluchos USA, but the team showed it has plenty to build on moving forward.
Napa opened up the game and their season with an early 10’ goal as the team’s lead striker Bryan Marin chased down a long ball behind the Aguiluchos’ defense, then found Francisco Mendoza just outside of the six-yard box, who slotted it past the keeper to give Napa Valley 1839 its first NPSL goal as a club.
The Aguiluchos attack was not dissuaded by the quick goal however, and in the 26’ 2016 NPSL Golden Boot winner Simon Rawnsley raced to beat the Napa back line on a long ball, and beat Napa goalkeeper Roberto Llamas on the near post to tie the game at 1-1.
The Aguiluchos newfound momentum did not last long, as just minutes after the Aguiluchos equalizer, midfielder Leopoldo Morales was sent off with a straight red card after kicking a downed Napa player. The match official immediately pulled the red card out of his back pocket, and the Aguiluchos were down to ten men for the remainder of the match.
The teams went into halftime tied at one apiece, but as play resumed for the second half, the Aguiluchos attack managed to catch the Napa defense off guard and scored a quick goal to go ahead 2-1, which would ultimately be the game’s final score.
The Aguiluchos dominated possession for most of the game, passing the ball through the midfield area with ease despite being down a man, but the Napa backline limited the Aguiluchos ability to turn these passes into serious chances on goal. Meanwhile, the Napa attack was greatly hampered by the loss of Bryan Marin, who went off with bad cramps late in the game. Marin gave Center Back Bengy Ruiz and the Aguiluchos back line great amounts of trouble with his deep runs on long balls over the defense, and it was his quickness that led to Napa’s only goal.
After the loss, Napa Valley 1839 FC Head Coach Jesus Medina said he thought the team showed excellent desire and eagerness to compete, even against an opponent with an advanced playing level and as much experience as the Aguiluchos have.
Medina also said he was happy with the team’s progress so far, but he acknowledged that they still have strides to be made in team cohesion and keeping their shape defensively. These things will come with time as the young squad becomes more familiar with each other and the season progresses. With the historic first match out of the way, Napa Valley 1839 FC now will prepare to host Sacramento Gold FC on April 1 in the Napa Memorial Stadium.
Despite the loss, the night was undoubtedly a success for the game of soccer. Napa Valley 1839 FC reported a total attendance of 2,291 for the team’s inaugural game, and fans had the Napa Memorial Stadium buzzing throughout the contest on the beautiful Northern California night.
From the national anthem, performed by Tamera Mowry-Housley, former star of the Disney Channel sitcom Sister Sister, to the excellent turnout and quality play on the field, professional soccer’s arrival in the Napa Valley was met with an enthusiastic welcome from the two thousand plus fans in attendance. The future of soccer in Napa Valley, and the growth of the game looks bright.