Saturday night was one for the books as FC Davis came storming back from 0-3 down in the final 18 minutes to tie Academica SC at Aggie Stadium in their first ever NPSL meeting.
Both FC Davis and Academica SC are new clubs to the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) and were looking to gain points in the middle stretch of the season as the May playoff push begins.
The match began with the Golden Lions play resembling the frigid outside temperatures, as the team lacked a connection that's been of a staple of their play thus far in the season. Arrant passes, poor touches, and offensive miscues plagued the home side as they looked to work themselves into the match.
On the opposite side of the ball, the visitors from Turlock were clicking on all cylinders and grabbed an early lead under 10 minutes into the match as a through ball was finished off to spark an early celebration for the visitors.
The rest of the first half was a mirror of the first 10 minutes, as FC Davis was unable to find cohesiveness to mount a tying goal.
Halftime came with the score 0-1 for the visitors and the Golden Lions entered the locker room in search of answers.
“We knew we were playing far below what we are capable of and shown this season.” said Andisheh Bagheri. “We had to find solutions to the lack of focus and enthusiasm we showed in the first half.”
The second half kicked off and FC Davis looked sharper, but it was Academica SC that yet again found the back of the net twice, once off a through ball and the second off a defensive miscue that saw the Golden Lions go down 0-3.
All seemed to be going wrong until Man of the Match Kyle Higgins entered the pitch to inject his trademark high intensity style of play which is exactly what FC Davis seemed to be lacking.
“Coming off the bench in these situations the mindset is always to bring energy and lift the pace of the game. When entering play, I came on just wanting to get some offense going and create opportunities anyway I could.” said Higgins. “If we could get the first one, I knew we could get a couple more.”
Higgins words came true as FC Davis opened their scoring off a set piece header as Andisheh Bagheri found defender Dash McNamara in the 72 minute to bring the score to 1-3.
McNamara’s goal seem to awake the team as suddenly the home side seemed to be everywhere on the pitch. Laying hard tackles, pressing up on defense and locking the away side in their half of the pitch.
Shortly after McNamara’s goal, it was center back Julian Ruzzier-Gaul's turn as he was found by Andisheh Bagheri off a corner that brought the home side back to 2-3 with time remaining for a third.
“Once the second one went in, we felt the third one coming.” said Ruzzier-Gaul. “If it came quick, we felt a fourth could happen.”
Shortly after the third goal, lighting struck yet again, as Allan Espinoza returned from injury to unleash a shot from 35 yards out that struck the bottom of the crossbar and went over the line to seal the 3-3 comeback for FC Davis.
“As soon as Miguel passed the ball back to me, I knew I had to take the shot.” said Espinoza. “The keeper was off his line so I knew if I could get the ball over him, it had a chance to go in. If he saved it or it hit the post, I knew big Kyle would be there to clean it up.”
With the score 3-3 and some time remaining, FC Davis pushed for a fourth goal. It seemed as though that moment came as sprinting Dash McNamara was flicked on by Kyle Higgins and was brought down what appeared to be in the box.
The center official was having no part of it and called the foul outside of the area.
As arguing was taking place on top of the box, FC Davis left back Greg Salazar put down the ball and fired it in the back of the net.
As the ball crossed the line, the fans screamed, FC Davis players celebrated, and the visitors from Turlock went to the ref who immediately made his way towards his assistant referee.
After a short discussion, the goal was ruled off and more arguments took place as mass confusion set it.
Once play settled, Andisheh Bagheri took the free kick that deflected off the wall, which laid nicely for a rebound shot. A blazing strike just missed the top corner which would have set the crowd and team celebrating once again.
The full-time whistle blew at 3-3 and capped a wild ride on the pitch for both teams.
FC Davis next game is away on Cinco de Mayo at first place El Faralito.
The Golden Lions return home for a match against CD Aguiluchos for a Mother's Day Special on Sunday, May 13th.
Allan Espinoza returned from injury to score his first goal of the season for the Golden Lions.
Brian Ford returned from a hamstring injury that kept him out two weeks.
Steven Guzman returned from a foot injury that sidelined him for one week.
The Golden Lions saw three players with their first goals of the season: Dash McNamara, Julian Ruzzier-Gaul, and Allan Espinoza.
The team had three players return from injury.
Saturday’s match saw two new NPSL sides compete for the first time.
The teams walkout group was from the Northbay Elite Football Club 2006 and 2009 boys teams.
The Davis Enterprise game write up can be found HERE.
Man of the Match was FC Davis forward Kyle Higgins.