By Gabe Zitrin
Behind first half strikes from Gerardo Mendoza and Davi Ramos and a feisty, tough defensive line, San Francisco City FC continued their winning ways at home with a 2-1 win over Fresno Fuego on a bright Sunday afternoon at Negoesco Stadium. The win and the three points that go with it vault the Iron and Gold into second place in the scrum that is the Premier Development League’s Southwest Division.
Against an opponent that had won all three of its PDL matches to start the 2017 season, SF City came in with some momentum themselves after their 3-2 comeback win a week earlier over Ventura County Fusion. And in front of a screaming crowd of Northsiders and other dedicated fans, their momentum netted them a game-changing goal just eight minutes in through Mendoza’s brilliant volley. Midfielder Danny Kirkland lofted a long cross-field ball for Mendoza near the edge of the Fresno box, and Mendoza chested the ball down and craftily backed his defender off while letting the ball bounce twice to set up his shot, before rocketing it over goalkeeper Agustin Rey.
SF City continued to battle in midfield to maintain control of the game, and Mendoza nearly had a second from a tight angle in the 21st minute after outmuscling his defender, but this time Rey parried the ball away with a smart reflex save. SF City were able to continue to press and to limit the Fuego to half-chances before they extended their lead in the 36th minute through three USF players combining for a goal on their home field. Right back Manny Padilla’s cross was chested up in the box by Ramos for Bryce Kaminski, whose struggle with his defender saw the ball bounce perfectly back to Ramos, who finished emphatically from close range.
The home squad managed to close out the first half with a two-goal lead, but Jose Cuevas gave them a scare with a sharp run down the right channel and a shot that forced a quality save from Weekes for the Fuego’s best chance of the first half.
Cuevas figured prominently in the major events of the second half, beginning in the 58th minute. He lofted a free kick into the SF City box, and after SF City defender Ben Brewster and Fuego attacker Carlos Delgadillo collided, the referee whistled Brewster for a foul and pointed to the penalty spot. Cuevas was the man chosen to convert the attempt, but he skied his spot kick well over the bar.
He wasn’t out of the fight for long, though, and scored from close range just ten minutes later after Weekes’ diving save on Renato Bustamante. The SF City keeper’s only real option was to push the ball wide, and Cuevas made a darting run onto the ball to finish from a tight angle. The Fire Squad, consistently the largest and loudest opposing fan group to appear at SF City home matches, erupted, and redoubled their efforts to spur their players on to the second goal they’d need to take something from the contest.
But though they had the lion’s share of the chances after pulling within one, and though defender Trevor Spurgeon’s 81st minute cross skidded past the entire SF City goal just inches from the line, there was no equalizer to be had. As they had against Ventura, SF City burned the clock with determined holdup play and managed enough scrambling clearances as the game wound down to secure a slim victory.
Some good news for the away fans, Fresno Freeze FC managed a 1-0 win over the San Francisco Nighthawks in a back-and-forth Women’s Premier Soccer League match earlier in the day on the same field.
From here, Fresno Fuego return home to face San Diego Zest on Thursday, and San Francisco City FC head South for a Wednesday rematch with the Fusion in Ventura.
The Central Pacific Division’s reigning champs return to the City by the Bay, as San Francisco City FC hosts Fresno Fuego at historic Negoesco Stadium.
City faces a tough test against a seasoned club that rode the Western Conference’s stingiest defense to glory a year ago.
After losing to City 3-0 in Fresno early last year, Fusion shut out City 2-0 in a hard fought game later in the season.
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