Napa Valley 1839 FC was hoping to carry some momentum over from its 3-2 win over the Sonoma Sol last week and finish the season on a high note, but first- place FC Davis (8-1-2) was having none of it on Saturday when the Golden Lions overwhelmed Napa (3-6-2) by a score of 5-2 for the second time this season in NPSL Golden Gate Conference action.
“Yeah, same score, that’s ironic,” said Napa head coach Rogelio Ochoa after the match. “But I thought we showed improvement from the first game against them.”
With the league standings all but set in stone, neither team had much to play for in the game played in front of a sparse crowd at Napa’s Memorial Stadium. FC Davis had first place and a first game at home in the upcoming playoffs against the Sacramento Gold. On the other hand, Napa would finish well out of the running for a playoff spot, win or lose.
Things started off well enough for 1839 FC. Just three minutes into the game, the home team rocked the Golden Lions when Francisco Mendoza blasted a 25-yard goal high into the left corner, surprising Davis goalkeeper Jonathan Laughlin.
“That was a really good start for us,” said Ochoa. “The first half was really competitive.”
Napa could have gone up 2-0 two minutes later but a header by Keegan Angevin was turned aside by Laughlin. Unfortunately for Napa, the talented Golden Lions would recover quickly and in the 10th minute, Davis forward Kennedy Chongo would take advantage of a letdown by the 1839 FC defense and tie the game thanks to a pass from Thomas Arnstein.
In the 22nd minute, the Golden Lions would seize the advantage thanks to another defensive lapse by Napa that allowed a through ball from Arnstein to find Andisheh Bagheri who was able to beat Napa goalkeeper Javier Valdez.
But to 1839 FC’s credit, they held the score at 2-1 until halftime and nearly tied the game in added time when Mendoza found room on the left and came in unchallenged on Laughlin. But the Davis goalie was able to fend off Mendoza’s left foot blast and keep his team in front at halftime.
Both teams seemed sluggish at the start of the second half, which seemed to suit the visitors.
“The tempo really slowed down in the second half,” Ochoa said, “which was a benefit to them since they were up 2-1.”
FC Davis would wake up in the 58th minute and pepper the Napa Valley goal with three quality shots in as many minutes. The first two, by speedy Tarwinder Purewal, were turned away thanks to a great effort by Valdez in goal. Miguel Alcevedo then sent a low shot from close range that was headed to left corner of the net before Valdez pushed it aside to keep the score 2-1.
But disaster struck Napa in the 70th minute when Bagheri was judged to have been knocked down in the goalkeeper’s box, awarding him a penalty kick. Alcevedo made no mistake on the penalty goal giving the first-place club a 3-1 lead.
Napa Valley could have thrown in the towel two goals down with just 10 minutes remaining, but forward Effren Torres was finally rewarded for creating several chances and beat Laughlin with a deft chip shot to bring the score to 3-2 in the 73rd minute.
“I saw the through ball come from the back line and I made the run,” Torres said. “Their defender tried to body me off but I got past him and I was able to just flick it over the goalie’s head.”
The goal energized 1839 FC and they threw everything forward to try and draw level with Davis. But with Napa throwing caution to the wind, the Golden Lions were able to pick up a couple of easy goals in the 87th and 89th minute to put the finishing touches on the contest. The first was Chongo’s second goal of the match and Andres Prieto closed out the scoring for the winners.
“We just couldn’t get that last little bit at the end to get a tying goal and put them under pressure,” Ochoa said. “They’re deadly. Give them an opportunity and they will put it in. That’s why they won the conference.”
Ochoa was looking ahead to next season for Napa Valley immediately after the match.
“We have a good core of guys, we know who the team is and we know they’re really passionate,” he said. “As the coach, I know exactly who I can go to and if we need a spot or two, we can get them. I’m very confident in them as a group, we may have lost six games but most of them we were in. And we did have a lot of injuries this season.”
In next week’s NPSL Golden Gate Conference playoffs, first-place Davis hosts fourth-place Sacramento Gold, and second-place San Ramon FC entertains third-place Academica SC.