Playing for prime playoff position, the Sonoma County Sol need a win in today's regular-season finale to earn postseason matches at home.
Getting solid play all over the field has been a Sol strength during an undefeated season that has the squad seeking an unprecedented second National Premier Soccer League title. Four playoff wins and the Sol would add to the team's 2009 championship.
"Our goal this year has always been to win a national championship. We have the team to do it, but we need to be sharp defensively and continue to have players step up and finish goals," said Chris Daly, a former Sonoma State and Sonoma Valley standout.
The Sol is a pro-am team and one of the longest tenured of teams playing in the national league, which spans 19 states. The NPSL is the fourth level of U.S. professional soccer.
Having wrapped up the Northern Division of the West Region, the Sol will host at least one playoff game. A win against CD Aguiluchos of Oakland today at Rancho Cotate High would assure a second postseason contest at home, where crowds have been growing.
"We're getting more people out this season," said Justin Ferreira, a former Sonoma State and Montgomery player. "We want to go far."
The Sol have made playoff appearances in six of the past 10 years. Last season, the Sol ended a two-year playoff drought only to lose in the Western Championship game.
"In past seasons we've had what it takes in moments, but couldn't put it all together," said Ross Middlemiss, the Sol's leading scorer out of Sonoma State. "It comes down to how you perform on that day."
Deeper at all positions and with a mix of ages and professional experience, the Sol have been more than tough to beat and are among just a handful of undefeated NPSL teams.
"This year we are so much deeper than any other year. We have a pool of around 25 players and only 18 of those players get to suit up each week," Daly said. "We have had injuries or players unavailable for games and when that has happened in the past we drop in the level of play. This year we are bringing guys in off the bench that at times are as strong as the starters."
Giving the Sol a major boost was the addition of several active Sonoma State players, coming on during the season after Sonoma State's spring workouts. They include Nico Spann (Montgomery) and Taylor Varnadore (Analy). Joining them were a couple of teammates from Southern California — Cam Leaver, from Encinitas, and Brenton Frame, out of Thousand Oaks.
On offense, brothers Trevor Hurst (Sonoma State) and Tyler Hurst (SRJC) — both out of Piner — have complemented Middlemiss. Adding additional punch has been Daly. "Our ability to score goals is a strength. We've spread it around," Middlemiss said. "We've got a pretty balanced attack. We have attacking players all over the field."
Scoring 3.0 goals per game game, the Sol defense allows half that number per contest. The Sol are plus-17 in goal differential.
Anchoring the defense have been Lee Summerscales, the Casa Grande High boys coach; Lee Sandwina, from Maria Carrillo, and Justin Ferreira, from Sonoma State and Montgomery.
Back in the net is James DelCurto. After cutting his teeth with the Sol ahead of his senior season at Cardinal Newman, the great all-around player is back and a big reason the Sol have gone undefeated. "Our defense has come up big when we've needed it," Middlemiss said.