PETALUMA — California Victory FC haven’t been tested much on the soccer field this season — something which could prove a boon or a problem — all because the proverbial final exam is this weekend.
The final weekend of play (and on the road, no less) is not the best time to face your first real test of the season. But Cal Victory is not exactly complaining.
The Sonoma County team, made up of both local and out-of-town college-level and semi-pro talent, is in its first season with the growing United Premier Soccer League.
Straight out of the gate, they ran roughshod over the competition in the Northwestern Conference, compiling a 14-1-1 record.
The goal differential is even more telling than the record: 57 scored to 12 allowed.
“Sonoma County has a lot of talent,” said former Elsie Allen and Santa Rosa Junior College standout Jorge Alvarez, who plays midfield for the team. “The level is so high. A lot of the new teams that played in the league were not at that level.”
But — and this is a pretty big but — the team dropped their final contest, a 4-2 loss to Boise FC in late June.
The result of that result? Cal Victory, despite winning the Northwestern Conference ahead of second-place Boise, got seeded seventh out of eight teams at the national tournament in Norco this weekend. Boise got the third seed.
That chafes coach Steven Purdy.
“It doesn’t make sense,” he said of the low seed.
The upside of the burn is that, for a team that hasn’t been challenged much this season, the seeming snub might provide the motivation needed for a big push into the painfully compressed postseason.
Cal Victory will face Sporting AZ FC from Mesa at 10 a.m. Saturday in the first round. Boise will face FC Golden State Force from Glendora, and the fourth-seeded Colorado Rush will play the L.A. Wolves, also at 10 a.m. Real Zamora of Las Vegas will play Strikers FC South Coast at noon.
Winners of the early Saturday games will face off in two semifinal matches Saturday night. The final is 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
In this season of firsts for the squad, Purdy said the introduction to the UPSL postseason is a journey into the unknown. And getting a glimpse of their opponent and potential opponents has been rough.
“It’s kind of tough in this league. They don’t record all the games,” he said. “We are trying to get some information on their style of play.”
But Purdy and the players of Cal Victory expect the competition to be stiffer from the outset this weekend.
“I’m very curious to see what the soccer is like,” Purdy said. “I know there is probably going to be a big step higher compared to our own division.”
Still, Purdy expressed confidence that his squad has the talent and the stamina to make it through the weekend.
And the stamina part will be key.
The tournament format has the morning winners moving on to play Saturday night. The championship game is at 7:30 p.m. Sunday night. If you are winning, that’s potentially a lot of soccer.
“I wish it wasn’t like that,” he said. “I don’t think these guys have had a format like that since they were 10 years old.