By Gabe Zitrin
With four games left to play, and the team either in or out of a playoff spot depending on the day and how one values “games in hand”, San Francisco City FC head coach Paddy Coyne has no off days. He spoke with sfcityfc.com about the frenetic final push as the squad prepares to host FC Golden State Force at Negoesco Stadium on Sunday, June 25 at 1pm.
“We’re good to go,” he said of taking on the Premier Development League’s Southwest Division leaders, who defeated SF City in Glendora, California, to open the season. “The roster’s full, all our college guys will be with us by this week. We know how Golden State play, they’ve got great individual players, they’ve got some great attacking threats, so we’ve got to play well defensively, and we’ve got to take our chances, because we will get chances. We got plenty of chances last time even though we lost.”
As with every PDL team, SF City’s roster has seen plenty of changes throughout the year as the players balance school, work, and personal commitments with their PDL duties. For Coyne the battle between roster consistency and the use of fresh talent is just part of the game. “It’s a tough balance,” he says, “but I was recruiting guys seven months ago for this team, and we knew we were going to have some different additions. So with that mix, having the influx of players coming in, always keeps the competitive juices going for the guys.”
The availability of more talent serves another purpose: depth has been critical for SF City FC in a season that has seen them play on back to back days or twice in three days on road trips to Southern California. But with the right balance of lineup changes, they’ve picked up enough points on those trips to keep them near the top of the standings. On their latest trip they defeated Southern California Seahorses 1-0 in La Mirada, California, and two days later beat Orange County SC U-23 2-0 in Norco.
“Going down to LA, stuck in a van for 12 hours and having to play 90 minutes of football on Friday, that was tough,” Coyne says. “And then Sunday, it was 115 degrees or something. It was so hot. But, I mean, we won both games, the guys were up for it.” Besides a massive endurance test, the schedule also left the team with a Saturday in Los Angeles to kill, and the perfect way to do it: a Major League Soccer game. “We took the team to see the LA Galaxy, the Galaxy hosted us, gave us 22 tickets, they were really good hosts. I bumped into [USA head coach] Bruce Arena, too. That’s always great, it was a nice conversation.”
With momentum carrying over from the successful trip South, Coyne is excited to play three of the last four games in front of the raucous home crowd and the fourth in front of an equally raucous crowd in Fresno. “With the games behind us, we’re comfortable now playing at home, we get the speed of the turf, we’ve got our fans behind us, the guys go out there really pumped. And Fresno, the crowd down there is just, the atmosphere is incredible. The guys love going out there.”
But there’s a clear message he wants to send going into the final stretch of games, especially against the Division leaders: “It’s about peaking at the right time. The playoffs? It’s in our hands, our destiny. We’re the ones who get to decide whether we’re going or not.” The home stretch begins Sunday afternoon at USF, and concludes there with a derby against local rivals Burlingame Dragons on July 15. Any goal in any match between then and now could be the difference.