In a game determined by second half play, the fourth seeded Sacramento Gold defeated the second seeded San Diego Flash 3-1 to advance to the Regional Finals.
The game between the Flash and Gold was a physical one from the get go. After both teams struggled to get anything going in the first half, they went in to half time all tied up 0-0.
Both keepers, James Stroud of the Flash and John Connolly of the Gold played heroically. Late in the first half John Connolly had an amazing diving save that led to a corner coming off the shot from Sergio Ortiz of the Flash. On the ensuing corner John Connolly had yet another great save coming off a header of the Flash player. The Gold almost capitalized with three minutes left in the first half with the shot by Cuco Martinez went wide left.
The Sacramento Gold would break the tie early in the second half, 3 minutes to be exact, with a header by forward Jason Jones on a beautiful cross by Nico Gonzalez, who would finish with two assists for the Sacramento Gold.
The San Diego Flash would bounce back five minutes later with a goal of their own. Evgeni Sorkin beat defender Mititelu down the left side and dump it off to Duach Jock whose shot would be blocked by defender Eric Vega, but the ball would bounce right to Sergio Ortiz who would send it past the Gold Keeper to even the score at 1-1.
But the Gold were not done yet, six minutes later Mititelu found the back of the net off the right post from a nice header. The goal came off a Corner kick and Nico Gonzalez’s second assist of the game.
The Gold would not be done, after their second goal they kept the intensity up but thanks to back to back saves by the Flash goal keeper James Stroud it was still a one score game.
After a Flash foul the Gold were awarded a free kick right outside the box. Danny Mititelu nearly gave the Sacramento Gold their third goal when his shot when off the crossbar.
The game was a physical one from the get go and as the pressure rose for the Flash to score and tie the game, tensions began to rise. After a flurry of yellow cards, both teams used their bench to try and regain control of the game. The Gold went with three defensive subs, while the Flash tried to apply more pressure on the defense.
The San Diego Flash would raise the tempo and go out on an all 0ffensive attack. On what seemed to be the shot that tied the game, John Connolly had a great save off a beautiful volley to the to left corner by Blake Milton.
At the 86th minute James Jones of the Sacramento Gold caught the Flash defense off guard and after a failed slide tackle Jones recorded his second goal to put the Gold up 3-1.
The San Diego Flash went for another late push as they tried to even the game up before regulation, Duach Jock had several attempts at goal but the Sacramento Gold keeper would not give anything up.
The San Diego Flash got one last chance on a free kick that Nick Hamilton managed to header but once again John Connolly proved to be a key reason why the Gold beat out the Flash.
The San Diego Flash season comes to an end after an emotional start to it when CEO Clent Alexander passed away in February. The Flash persevered through adversity and reached their fifth straight post season after finishing on top of the Southwest Conference.
Behind key performances by James Jones, Nico Gonzalez and James Connolly, the Sacramento Gold advance to the Region Finals for their third consecutive appearance where they will host sixth seeded CD Aguiluchos USA, who upset one seeded Sonoma County Sol in dramatic fashion by way of penalties.
The Regional Final is set to be played on Saturday July 25th.