Project 51O clawed back from a two-goal halftime deficit to secure a 4-4 away draw against Vallejo Omega FC, in an exhilarating top-of-the-table clash in the UPSL’s NorCal division. The Team from The Town entered the match needing a single point to secure the division crown on rival territory, setting the stage for a grandstand finish to the regular season.
It was the home side who came flying out of the gates, opening the scoring just before the quarter-hour mark with a composed low finish past 51O goalkeeper Adan Corona.
Omega would double their lead just 10 minutes later with another well-worked team goal, and in the 32nd minute of the match, a heavily deflected free-kick from 30 yards gave Omega a shocking three-goal advantage.
Just before the halftime whistle, skipper Javi Ruiz Duran teed up a speculative left-footed effort from outside the 18-yard box. The shot took a heavy deflection, just sneaking under the outstretched arm of Omega’s goalkeeper and into the back of the net, providing 51O with some much-needed momentum heading into a season-defining second half.
As the sun set over the North Bay, and the floodlights illuminated the pitch, the Project got active. Javi Mariona cut the deficit to one with a rasping daisy cutter free kick that skimmed the turf on its way into the back of the net. Omega responded with a surge of energy, opening the game up into an end-to-end track meet, much to the enjoyment of the packed crowd at Dan Foley Park. The sustained pressure finally cracked 51O’s backline, and an Omega winger snuck in behind to dink over Corona, and restore the two-goal advantage.
Facing the most important twenty minutes of their season, 51O dug deep into their well of perseverance. Julian Valle turned his defender inside out and slid a ball across the six-yard line to the onrushing Luis Saldana, who tapped in to begin the comeback in earnest. The provider would become the finisher in the 80th minute of the match, as Valle equalized with a bullet header into the bottom left corner, giving 51O all the offense they would need on the night. The point secured consecutive USL League Two and UPSL Division titles for 51O, a remarkable achievement at the expense of older and more experienced opponents.
Project 51O will await results from across the league to learn whom they will host in the first round of the UPSL Playoffs, slated for the weekend of November 11th.