The Napa Valley 1839 FC men’s soccer team had its chances to start off the season with two wins out of the gate, but the second one was not to be Sunday night.
In its home opener at Justin-Siena’s Dodd Stadium, 1839 FC fell 2-1 to Project 510 of Oakland, a newcomer to the National Premier Soccer League’s Golden Gate Conference.
“I’ve only been here for three weeks now,” pointed out new 1839 FC head coach Mark Corbett, “so I’ve had limited time with the players trying to be solid in the defensive zone. That was really our game plan coming in, trying to get them playing defensively. For them to score off set pieces was really frustrating.”
Napa Valley (1-1), coming off a 1-0 win over El Farolito in San Francisco the previous weekend, could easily have walked off at halftime with a nil-all draw but it was not to be.
Luis Ramirez had a great opportunity to put 1839 FC on the board first, but his left foot blast went just outside the right post in the 21st minute off a ball fell nicely for him in the goal square.
Another near-miss by Ramirez suggested strongly that, at least in the opening minutes, Napa Valley was getting the better part of the play.
Instead, it was Project 510 that opened the scoring – off a set piece early in the second half. The goal by Joseph Ristani looked as easy as they come.
“We were then forced to take chances defensively,” said Corbett.
A flurry of yellow cards and a killer red card left 1839 FC undermanned and struggling even more to get on the board. It was another set piece that doomed Napa Valley, as Armon Maghieri scored from directly in front of the goal for a 2-0 lead.
But 1839 FC was not done yet, as forward Ivan Sakou broke free at last and beat Project 510 goalkeeper Kevin Gonzalez with 10 minutes remaining. Moments later, Sakou missed two point-blank shots, either of which would have tied the match. The second one, which hit the underside of the crossbar before bounding away, was particularly heartbreaking.
“In previous years we could have lost a match like this one 4-0 or 5-0, but we dug in and nearly tied it up,” Corbett said, “although they should have come away with more.”
Sakou said he was pleased with goal but naturally disappointed that he could not have done more with his opportunities at the end when he had the match on his boot. Sakou agreed with Corbett that he and the team needed to be more ruthless finishing around the goal.
Napa Valley 1839 FC next travels to Petaluma to face the Sonoma County Sol (0-1) at Luchessi Field at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 14. Napa Valley returns to Dodd Stadium on March 21 to host FC Davis.