12/11/2017 12:58 AM
The East Bay FC Stompers Juniors win their playoff match up with FC Sacramento 5-1 and advance to the UPSL Fall/Winter national championship tournament in Southern, Calif.
Things didn’t start well for the Stompers Juniors in the early stages of their inaugural season in the UPSL. EBFC started by dropping three straight games; two in preseason and the season opener. Two tough back to back losses in preseason 4-1 in Sacramento to Azteca (UPSL) and 8-0 to El Farolito (NPSL). The losses came while the newly formed team was looking to find an identity and sift through a vast array of trial players mixed with the team’s core. A tough 6-3 loss to JASA in the UPSL season opener, a team which featured seven of players off of the Stompers spring NPSL roster left the club wondering if it were to be a long season.
The Juniors quickly responded with a nail biting 3-2 victory in the confines of PAL Stadium at long time Bay Area rivals Real San Jose. Early goal scoring from striker Isaac Ikyurav putting up two goals vs. Real San Jose to go with his 3 from the week before at JASA. It was also the first time we would see midfielder Diego Lopez put one in the back of the net but was definitely not the last. Diego Lopez finished the year with the team lead in goals scored to go with a high assist total making him the MVP of the season for the Juniors.
The addition of veteran GK Luis “Manotas” Castro a former El Salvador national team GK seem to be the missing link the Juniors were looking for. Castro also played professionally in El Salvador for CD FAS for a number of years and was widely regarded as one of the best, if not the best GK in the whole country having been a champion at the top level of professional soccer in El Salvador. In 2015, Luis Castro returned to CD FAS as the manager of the club.
With a handful of veteran Stompers players mixed with some new recruits and a few of the organizations promising youth became a recipe for success for Stompers coach Martin Sierra. "Trust was the key to our success. They trusted me to lead them and I trusted them to get the job done and they did," Sierra said. Martin also added asst. coach Elmer Aleman from a well-known Hayward Tecos youth program who brought in young talent to add to the depth to the Junior's roster.
The stompers went on to put up 7 straight regular season games undefeated, despite dropping one Conference Cup match to Western Nevada FC 4-0 in Sparks, NV. The Juniors would return to Pepsi Fields in Hayward, Calif. as their home field, a pitch that has been very favorable to the Stompers in the past.
Over the 7 game stretch starting at Real San Jose the Stompers Juniors would post six wins and one draw vs. their UPSL Wild West Conference Red Division opponents. It continued with the Juniors striking revenge vs. JASA at home with a 3-1 victory. Then a 4-1 victory vs. Dynamos FC at home followed by a 4-3 game in Oakland vs. Pamperos.
Which leads us to the last time the Juniors dropped points vs. RSJ with a 2-2 draw at home as Real SJ was fighting for their playoff lives and trying to keep the Juniors from clinching a playoff spot at their expense. The final two games had the Juniors blowing out an undermanned Oakland Pamperos 8-0 and a late come from behind 4-3 win vs. Dynamos FC in San Ramon, Calif.
East Bay FC Stompers Juniors finished 6W-1D-1L and on top of their division. Which had them hosting FC Sacramento in Hayward, Calif., for a playoff to determine who would advance to the 2017/18 Fall/Winter UPSL national final tournament. FC Sacramento put up a valiant effort by equalizing the game at 1-1 in the 27' from a shot right outside the box, after Diego Lopez put the EBFC side up 1-0. In the 43’ Edson Cardona would put the Juniors out fron 2-1 right before halftime. In the second half it was all Juniors as goals by Nigus Solomon, a second by Diego Lopez, and a 35 yard upper V shot by Evan Filipczyk late in the game put the match out of reach for the visitors.
The Juniors will enjoy the victory and look forward to see who they will be matched up against in the UPSL national quarterfinals.