The East Bay FC Stompers scored four goals in the second half of their Saturday evening match with Sonoma County Sol, en route to a 4-3 win that potentially saved their season.
After going down two goals early to the Sol at home, the Stompers showed incredible spirit and drive to earn the much-needed three points, setting up a final-weekend showdown with the Sacramento Gold for the third and final Golden Gate Conference playoff spot.
Sonoma dominated much of the early part of the game. They controlled possession and had the only decent chances in the match for more than 25 minutes. Almost all of that time was played in the Sol’s attacking half, making them look like the team more desperate for points.
This pressure eventually led to a 30th minute penalty kick call for the Sol. Playmaker Brenton Frame stepped up and calmly tucked the penalty into the side netting to give the Sol the early 1-0 lead.
This goal seemed to deflate the Stompers, and their energy on the field went down significantly. A few minutes later, the Sol found the back of the net again as the Stompers defense switched off. Brenton Frame put in a cross from the right side and Noah Paravicini, unmarked in the box, finished nicely to give the Sol a 2-0 lead in the 33rd minute.
This would remain the score into the half as Sonoma dominated the game until the break. The Stompers’ season looked all but dead until the insertion of Khalid Arramdani up top at the half changed the balance of play completely.
It started for East Bay in the 49th minute when midfielder Prince Bere found space wide right and put in an inch-perfect pass to Eder Guzman, who buried his header to ignite the comeback.
Another goal quickly followed in the 53rd as Arramdani beat multiple Sol defenders, and got into the box to set up Julian Amaya for the equalizing goal. Just 8 minutes into the second half, the score was tied and the game was turned on its head.
The balance of play continued to be all in favor of the Stompers in the second half, just as the first half was all Sol. But it wasn’t until the 67th minute that the home side took the lead. Eder Guzman played a perfectly weighted through ball to set up Man of the Match Khalid Arramdani one-on-one with the keeper. Arramdani’s shot snuck under the netminder and gave the Stompers the lead.
The Stompers added an important insurance goal two minutes later as Arramdani beat multiple defenders again, setting up Julian Amaya for his second of the night and a 4-2 lead.
The Stompers proceeded to sit back and defend the two-goal lead. Nico Spann got the Sol a third goal in the 88th minute, but it was too little, too late.
The result sets up an exciting final weekend in the Golden Gate Conference, with four teams still alive for three playoff spots. The Stompers will travel to Sacramento to face Gold FC, which currently sits in second place, two points ahead of the Stompers. A win or draw for Sacramento would all but guarantee the Gold a playoff spot. As well, the regular season title is not untouchable for the Gold, but they would need a lot to happen. They have to make up a large goal differential, and all the stars would need align as to who wins the other matches.
The Stompers only need a win to reach their first NPSL playoffs in club history. A win would put them a point above Sacramento and into third place to secure the final spot. They could also go as high as second place if Sonoma was to fall in both of its final two games.
Sonoma is currently in third place, but has two games to play on the final weekend. The Sol will first play CD Aguiluchos USA at home, and they must win to keep the regular season title alive, as they are just 4 points behind Aguiluchos for the top spot. A draw or Sonoma loss would guarantee the Aguiluchos the top spot in the conference.
The Sol then travel to play last-place Real San Jose. If they beat Aguiluchos, a win against San Jose would give them the top spot. However, a loss to Aguiluchos would make the San Jose game a must-win to make the playoffs. A single point against San Jose could be enough as well, depending on results elsewhere.