On a chilly Saturday evening at Justin-Siena High School’s Dodd Stadium, second-year team Napa Valley 1839 FC shut out first-year club Academica of Turlock, 3-0, in both side’s opening National Premier Soccer League Golden Gate Conference match.
Victorious coach Jesus Medina agreed it was a tale of two halves after 1839 was out-shot 3-0 in the first half by Academica, which controlled much of the action.
Medina brought in forward Bryan Marin to start the second half and it gave 1839 an immediate lift.
“Our philosophy is we have guys on the bench who are fit and can go in and out anytime,” Medina said.
Marin was held on a breakaway in the 53rd minute just outside the goal area. However, Francisco Mendoza’s free kick into the wall was deflected wide.
Continued pressure from 1839 earned Napa Valley a corner in the 55th minute. But a subsequent point-blank shot from Marin was cleared away by Academica goalie Bernardo Garcia, and the game remained scoreless.
But it appeared as if the momentum had shifted.
The home crowd would soon be rewarded when Marin finally broke the ice for 1839 in the 59th minute on a rocket off his right foot from 20 yards out that flew over the head of Garcia and buried itself in the top left corner of the net.
That goal would give 1839 the momentum.
“We dominated the last 20 minutes,” said Medina. “Bryan changed the game with his speed and mobility. That was the whole idea behind bringing him in when we did. When he put that goal in, the game changed entirely.”
But despite Marin’s heroics, the player of the match, in Medina’s opinion, was 1839’s goalie, Javier Valdez-Raya, who made several acrobatic saves that kept the visitors off the board and preserved the shutout.
“(Javier) was phenomenal and a big factor in this game,” he said, “especially in the last 10 minutes.”
A much-needed insurance goal was provided by midfielder Osvaldo “Balon” Velaquez-Vazquez in the 65th minute. His low, hard shot scooted past Garcia to give 1839 a 2-0 lead.
“That was a great goal,” said Medina.
Two minutes later, Andrew Carlile stormed forward from his backline position and blasted a long shot that went just over the bar.
“His work ethic is fantastic,” said Medina.
A spectacular save by Valdez-Raya on a breakaway by Academica in the 74th minute was vital. On a through ball that allowed an opposing forward to come in unchecked, Valdez-Raya came well out of his box to cut down the angle and block the shot.
The 1839 goalie turned away two hard shots from Academica in extra time to preserve the shutout.
Shortly before the final whistle, Francisco Gonzalez made it 3-0 for 1839 on a high drive that again beat the Academica goalie.
“Every time you win,” said Medina, “confidence comes with the package, which really facilitates our work throughout the week. It’s a good beginning for us, but we haven’t accomplished anything yet.”
Medina said Marin suffered a hamstring injury on a breakaway in the second half when his left-footed blast went high and wide after a hard challenge. He will be evaluated during the week.
“Balon” Velazquez-Vasquez took a hard hit late in the game, according to Medina, but the coach said he would be fine.
Medina noted the hard, physical play by Academica, which resulted in several cautions from the referee.
Newcomers Max Alvarez, a former Napa High School and Sacramento State star, and international player Lukas Schubert of Austria both had strong opening games for the locals.
“It was a great team effort,” Medina concluded, “but our goalkeeper was special tonight.”
Napa Valley 1839’s next game is on the road against Sacramento Gold FC on March 17 at 7 p.m. at Capital Christian High School. The game will be Sacramento’s opener in conference play.
The next home game for 1839 will be April 7 against El Farolito of San Francisco. The game will be at Justin-Siena.
The 1839-Academica game was the second of a doubleheader. In the first match, Contra Costa FC’s Lucas Machado scored in the 70th minute to give the visitors a 1-0 win over the Napa Valley 1839 reserves. Contra Costa controlled most of the action.
Between the games, there was a moment of silence for the three women killed on Friday at the Veterans Home of California in Yountville.