AMERICAN CANYON — “We were flat tonight,” admitted Napa Sporting SC head coach Bernie Ochoa, “but the important thing was getting that positive result and the three points.”
Napa Sporting SC improved its record to 6-1-2 by blanking the East Bay Stompers 2-0 of Hayward on Saturday.
It was the third win in a row for Napa Sporting SC, which remains in third place in the United Premier Soccer League’ Wild West Conference, behind California Victory FC of Petaluma and first place Coyotes FC of Carson City, Nevada.
The East Bay Stompers are now near the bottom of the conference at 1-1-6 and didn’t put up much of a fight on a windy and chilly evening at American Canyon High School’s Wolf Den Stadium.
Ochoa was happy with the win, but not a lot else.
“Coming off a bye week, the intensity wasn’t there. We weren’t clicking mentally, physically and tactically like we need to do. We are a better side than the team we beat tonight, but we have to show it,” he said.
Sporting SC was led by dynamic forward and leading scorer, Sebastian Herrera, who set up Napa’s first goal and scored his 11th goal of the season with a right-footed rocket into the upper left corner of the net from 25 yards out in the 33rd minute.
He found teammate Christian Martinez with a nice through ball in the 19th minute, and Martinez was able to slide it under Stompers’ keeper Peter Swinkels for the game’s first goal.
“I’m just trying to score goals or find an open player,” observed Herrera after the match. “On the goal, I got a good pass from Saiaz (Saenz), cut inside the defender, saw a little opening and took the shot. Things have been working well for me lately. I like playing in the front line where I have more opportunities to score.”
“Sebastian was out there creating a lot of opportunities for sure,” Ochoa emphasized. “He’s an offensive player and he was able to capitalize on one goal and set up another, and we’ll take it. He’s a big piece of our offense, and works hard at setting up opportunities and being involved in as many plays as he can.”
Although Sporting SC’s goalies, Federico Cortes and Carlos Ayala, combined to pitch a shutout, the Stompers had only a handful of shots and neither Napa goalie was seriously tested.
“I substituted Carlos Ayala in at goalie in the second half. He’s just 17 and it was his first opportunity to play,” said Ochoa, whose philosophy is to try and give everyone a chance to get playing time. “I did a lot of substituting in the second half because I was trying to give people minutes more than anything, but we had some players who were fatigued as well.
“We have some guys coming back from injuries and I wanted to give them 10-15 minutes to see if they’re ready going into next weekend’s game,” he added.
Napa Sporting SC’s next match is May 19 against second-place California Victory FC at Petaluma’s Casa Grande High School. The game is part of a conference knockout tournament. The game time has not yet been announced. The two teams battled to a 3-3 draw in an earlier meeting this season.
“We should have our full roster available for that game,” said Ochoa, “so we’re hoping to play strong and set ourselves up for a playoff run down the home stretch.”