East Bay FC surrendered two goals in a three-minute second-half stretch against Alameda County Derby rival CD Aguiluchos USA, and a late-game rally proved insufficient as the Stompers dropped their 2017 National Premier Soccer League opener by a 2-1 score.
"We started slow," Stompers head coach Martin Sierra said. "We just gotta pick up the pace, and right when the ref blows the whistle, we gotta get going at 100 miles per hour."
East Bay striker Khalid Arramdani substituted on in the second half and scored his team's first goal of the new NPSL season in the 84th minute, assisted by midfielder Jesse Kehoe. But the Stompers couldn't equalize despite a late flurry of attacks on the Aguiluchos goal.
"Second half, we came on pretty strong," Kehoe said. "For some reason, we like putting ourselves behind before we actually start playing."
Aguiluchos forward Simon Rawnsley, the 2016 NPSL scoring leader, put his team up 2-0 in the 66th minute. Defender Selaad Ghafouri opened the scoring in the 63rd minute.
The teams played to a scoreless first half as Golden Gate Conference play kicked off at Burrell Field in San Leandro, the new home venue for the Aguiluchos.
"I thought the first 45 minutes, we didn't play very well," Kehoe said. "Our touches weren't really there."
The Stompers have an early bye week, then will travel to Santa Rosa on April 1 for their first look of 2017 at Sonoma County Sol. East Bay FC earned two wins and a tie against Sonoma in 2016 regular-season play, but was eliminated from the playoffs by the Sol in a 3-1 first-round loss.
"I think with the bye week next week and some solid training sessions, we'll be ready for Sonoma," Kehoe said. "I think it's only a small glitch in our season, the first game. We always kinda start slow. That's life. We gotta change that, but we'll get there."
"We didn't get the result we wanted," Sierra said. "It's our first game, we're working out the kinks ... I expect to do better up in Sonoma."