The Northern Division (nicknamed the Golden Gate Conference) of the NPSL West Region started regular season play this weekend after several weeks of US Open Cup Qualifying. While making pre and early season predictions is often nothing better than rolling dice, here is a brief look at each club and where we might expect them to finish based on last years results and the first few matches played this year.
1. Sonoma County Sol: 2012 PR = 1.605, 2013 PR (to date) = 1.221
Having finished on *top (actually second behind Bay Area Ambassadors - see note below) of the division last season with an outstanding +12 goal differential over 6 games gives the Sol the nod for my division pre-season #1. So far the Sol have started out OK, avenging a 1-5 Open Cup qualifying loss to Sacramento with a 4-1 victory to open the regular season this weekend. Right now the gap between the top two in the division is too close to call, leaning in favor of the Sol based on last seasons merits. But based on the early season results so far Sonoma had better find some consistency if they want to take home the division title.
2. Sacramento Gold: 2012 PR = .978, 2013 PR (to date) = 1.437
With the exception of the loss to Sonoma County, Sacramento has started the season strong. Unfortunately, if they want to challenge Sonoma for the title they will have to find a way to repeat their Open Cup heroics during the regular season. This Sacramento team is much improved over last season and they have pieces in place to challenge Sonoma for the title. If Sacramento can forget the last game and get back to pre-season form I wouldnâ€™t hesitate to give them the #1 ranking.
3. Real San Jose: 2012 PR = .866, 2013 PR (to date) = 1.0o0
Real San Jose finished 2012 nipping at the heals of Sacramento. They finished with 1 less loss than the Gold but also managed only 1 win (to Sacramentoâ€™s 2). The three draws showed they are a scrappy team, but the power rankings punish draws as much as reward them. Aside from a 0-2 Open Cup qualifying loss to Sacramento, San Jose claimed a 2-0 victory over league newcomers CD Aguiluchos USA. Real San Jose seems to have returned a scrappy team this season, and if they can find a few more goals and turn a couple draws into victories, I think they could compete for the division title.
4. San Francisco Stompers: 2012 PR = .483, 2013 PR (to date) = .285
San Francisco finished *bottom of the division table (actually 5th of out 6 teams, see note below) last season mostly due to the fact that they only managed to score 3 times over the course of the season while allowing 17 goals over the same 6 game span. The good news is that they scored 2 goals in their only match so far this season. The bad news is that the defense allowed 5 in that same match. The Stompers will need to find a way to plug the holes on defense if they want to have any chance of finishing in the top 3.
5. CD Aguiluchos USA: 2012 PR = N/A, 2013 PR (to date) = 0.001
CD Aguiluchos has made a bit of noise leading up to the start of the season for an experiment that is reminiscent of MLS club Chivas USA. It may be too early to fairly place them at the bottom of the table, but they have been held scoreless in two matches so far this season. Until we see something more from them, I have to place Aguiluchos at the bottom.
*NOTE: It should be noted that both the North Coast Tsunami and the Bay Area Ambassadors participated in the division for the 2012 season and finished 6th and 1st respectively. However because both teams are not fielding an NPSL team for the 2013 season I have ignored them in the above analysis.