Competition and Collaboration: Behind the Bay City Derby

By Gabe Zitrin

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Among the other storylines spinning around the third annual Bay City Derby, kicking off Saturday at 7pm between the San Francisco City FC and the University of San Francisco Dons, is the tale of three players on each side who will be using the match to be better and more effective when they join forces in a few months’ time.

Not only does San Francisco City boast three former Dons players — defenders Christian De Luna and Ludwing Vargas, and midfielder Danny Kirkland, but is soon to boast three more that are likely to show up as opponents on Saturday — midfielder Matt Orr, forward Bryce Kaminski, and midfielder Jordan Hughes, in his second season playing with both teams.

In a sport where a player’s sharpness can fade in far less time than it takes for an offseason to conclude, the West Coast Conference stalwarts and Premier Development League newcomers each have a strong incentive to help their players develop year-round. In practice, and given the strong connections both teams share with San Francisco, this has led to the sharing of a great deal of talent between USF and SF City. Of course, it also leads annually to the sight of past, future, and what amount to current teammates battling it out in San Francisco’s signature derby.

“To tell you the truth, I think it’s a part of why this is such a big game,” said SF City Head Coach Paddy Coyne. “Everyone knows each other, everyone wants to help each other be the best players they can be, but at the same time no one wants to lose. And when no one wants to lose, that’s what brings out the best in all the players.”

De Luna says playing against current and former teammates kick’s everyone’s competitive drive into a higher gear.I’m still close to a lot of the [USF] guys and I know they are really excited to be playing against some USF alumni. There is definitely a lot of smack talking, but it’s all in good fun. I definitely can’t wait to teach the young USF boys a thing or two.”

Not surprisingly, the USF players have much the same idea.

Captain Danny Kirkland on Saturday’s Bay City Derby

By Gabe Zitrin17342836_1596180350411900_8384359746983210971_n

To find the origin of one of the most identifiable players in San Francisco soccer, who has captained not one but two of its best-known teams, you might not think to look 5,000 miles East-Northeast of Negoesco Stadium. But that’s where the path to San Francisco soccer greatness began for San Francisco City FC captain and former University of San Francisco Dons captain Danny Kirkland, who reflected on the path that brought him to this point as he prepares to lead his current squad against his former one in the third Bay City Derby at Negoesco on Saturday.

“I come from a small town called Chesterfield, less than 10 miles outside of Sheffield,” Kirkland told me. “It’s a much smaller community where everybody knows everybody and it’s football-mad. Growing up, all kids want to do is become a professional footballer – it’s a lifestyle.”

The same was true of Kirkland, a central midfielder known for his powerful and accurate left foot and quick decision-making on the ball. He joined the youth system of Sheffield Wednesday Football Club in England’s second division, but took a different path as he reached his prime playing years. Wednesday’s Academy Director had played in the US, and suggested that university soccer in the States might be Kirkland’s best move — especially in one of the most beautiful cities in the US or anywhere else. “All I knew is that I wanted to play in California,” Kirkland says. “I signed my [National Letter of Intent] without even visiting San Francisco – I knew it was the place to be.”

And he’s never had cause to second-guess that decision. “Looking back now,” he says, “I was extremely lucky to be able to live and play in San Francisco. The experience of training day in, day out in a city as great as this one isn’t an opportunity that comes around all that often.” Not that the changeover went off without a hitch: “It took a while for me to adjust – to everything. The style of football was completely different to what I was used to, the culture, and also moving from a relatively small town to a vibrant city, it took time to settle in. It’s much faster pace here and obviously technologically more advanced.”

Technologically? “Uber isn’t a thing in Chesterfield!”

Ride-sharing services aside (he declined to say whether he considers Uber’s presence a good thing or a bad), there’s been no adjustment period needed for Kirkland to form a close bond with the fans of San Francisco. He’s been a clear fan favorite since first suiting up for the Iron and Gold, and the feeling is mutual. “The SF City fans and the Northsiders are incredible – passionate, dedicated, loyal people and some of the best fans I’ve ever played for. Soccer has grown immensely since I arrived here almost six years ago and I imagine it will continue to become more and more popular, especially considering the number of children in the City that are all involved in the sport.”

Trialing and then playing at SF City after his final year with the Dons, alongside fellow USF alum and current Los Angeles Galaxy defender Dave Romney, Kirkland instantly found that the club fit his vision of the game. “We were involved in the Open Cup run and I really believed in what the club was trying to do. There is such a community feel around the place, between the players, staff and fans.”

As he prepares to face the Dons on Saturday, perhaps no one else involved in the game has as deep a connection to SF City’s opponent or to the Bay City Derby as an institution. But the past is the past, and Kirkland knows where his loyalties lie. “I had four great years at USF and a lot of memories there so of course it will be nice to be back,” he says, “It’s crazy to think that the current seniors were just freshmen during my last season. But I’m an SF City player now, so naturally I want a win for us. If I was out injured, I’d be stood watching the game with the Northsiders!”

Bay City Derby Has San Francisco Buzzing

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A battle between brothers on a hilltop amid the rolling fog — in just its third year, the Bay City Derby between the University of San Francisco Dons and San Francisco City FC has already captured the imaginations of the soccer community as the year’s showcase evening for the beautiful game in San Francisco. The teams’ shared status as San Francisco soccer institutions and commitment to growing the game in the City have transformed their annual friendly into a full-scale celebration on turf.

Along with the two teams’ long histories and their roots in San Francisco culture, there is a growing familiarity and overlap between the players and fan bases of USF and SF City. SF City boasts a number of current and former Dons players, including Christian de Luna, Ludwing Vargas, and captain Danny Kirkland, and Dons Jordan Hughes, Matt Orr, and Bryce Kaminski are set to join SF City as well when the NCAA season ends. For good measure, SF City color commentator Joe Dugan is also a former Don, having played under legendary coach Steve Negoesco.

With such deep ties between the two clubs, players and fans alike have fond memories of the two previous editions of the Derby — the Iron and Gold’s 4-1 win in 2015, and the Dons’ 3-1 triumph in 2016 — and are primed and ready for Saturday’s rubber game. The winner takes the lead in the series, and the loser begins a long year waiting for a chance to make amends.

Another new twist in the 2017 version of the Bay City Derby is that the venue, Negoesco Stadium, is now the home stadium for both teams playing. San Francisco City FC joins USF at the field at the foot of Lone Mountain for their 2017 slate of games, so for one night fans of both clubs can get all their cheering done at the same time. For everyone associated with USF and SF City, in uniform and out, the excitement for this game runs as high as its mountain setting.

Coming Soon: New Retail and Office Space!

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We are thrilled to announce that we will soon be moving to our new retail and office space at The Yard at Mission Rock, at 100 Terry A. Francois Boulevard.

Our new home base sits right on McCovey Cove, at the South end of the 3rd Street bridge — across from AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, steps from the Anchor Beer Garden and Street Soccer USA Park. It will carry all your favorite SF City FC merchandise, function as the club’s administrative headquarters, and host special fan, youth, and Member events that we couldn’t be more excited to participate in.

We look forward to having our official opening on Sunday, April 23rd, in conjunction with our Jersey Unveiling and Season Kick-Off celebration.

San Francisco City win 2-1 away at Napa Valley 1839 FC

17342836_1596180350411900_8384359746983210971_nBy Gabe Zitrin

Given a rare opportunity to witness and participate in Bay Area soccer history, San Francisco City FC rose to the occasion Saturday with a 2-1 away win over Napa Valley 1839 FC. NV1839, playing their first match ever against outside competition, scored their first goal in team history three minutes in through Bryan Marin, but SF City calmly erased the deficit and secured the lead before the half, and held on stoutly to go home winners.

The Napa community was well-represented at the Redwood Middle School field for their team’s first public appearance, before the season opens next week at Napa’s Memorial Stadium. And the local fans didn’t have to wait long for something to celebrate, with Marin’s spectacular display kicking off the game. The left winger collected the ball on the sideline near midfield, beat the SF City back line with a tremendous burst of speed, and with no help anywhere nearby, finished from a tight angle past SF City’s Peter Winkels.

SF City were knocked back on their heels but recovered their composure quickly, and their skill in winning possession and space got them level nine minutes later. Left winger Bobby Edwards, a constant threat throughout his shift, beat his man off a turnover and drove into the box, forcing a hard foul from Napa Valley’s central defense and earning a penalty kick. SF City captain Danny Kirkland calmly converted low and to the right past goalkeeper Roberto Llamas to make the score 1-1.

For the rest of the half, SF City continually forced turnovers in threatening spots – midfielder Ashley Watson won the ball in the 25th and drove in on goal himself, firing inches high, but NV1839 wasn’t so lucky in the 37th when SF City forward Chris Kennedy won the ball 30 yards from goal with Llamas a hair off his line. Kennedy quickly got off a shot that left the keeper no chance to recover, giving SF City a 2-1 lead.

The second half whistle brought a break in the clouds that would last the rest of the afternoon. Facing an entire squad of debutants, SF City Head Coach Paddy Coyne used the pre-season environment to trot out a few of his own, with immediate dividends. Jamal Bernardez took over the right wing at the half and nearly helped double the lead in the 61st with a beautiful lofted ball over the top to a streaking Kennedy. Kennedy tried to chip the goalkeeper for his second of the day, but Llamas’ flying leap was enough to block the shot.

SF City’s defense kept NV1839’s chances to a bare minimum throughout the second half, denying them the passing lanes they’d seen earlier, and the home team’s only real chance to equalize came in the 82nd minute. A long free kick from the right side seemed to threaten the SF City box, but a foul was called even as SF City keeper Taylor Bailey made an athletic leaping grab to highlight his 15-minute debut performance. SF City were able to close out the game with little trouble to claim their first win of the young pre-season, taking home a little bit of history in the process.

SF City return home to prepare for the highlight of their preseason on April 1, a rivalry match against the USF Dons at Negoesco Stadium, while NV1839 open their season on March 25 at home against CD Aguiluchos.

SF City Man of the Match:
Bobby Edwards

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SF City Pre-Season Preview

by Gabe Zitrin

As they train, tinker, and strategize in advance of their second Premier Development League season, the players and coaches of San Francisco City FC are also using a packed and exciting pre-season schedule to prepare themselves for the rigors of the Western Conference. Seven games, against six local NCAA schools and one brand new semi-pro club, stand between SF City and their May 5th season opener at Glendora’s FC Golden State Force.

“It’s a tough schedule, it’s what we need,” said SF City Head Coach Paddy Coyne. “It’s going to force us to find our depth, play together as a team, make sure the chemistry’s there. We’ve got some matches back-to-back in the PDL to start off, so we can train for how that’s going to affect us, how we’re going to handle a quick turnaround.”

“It’s definitely a challenging month and a half,” said club President Jacques Pelham, “but that’s what we were looking to do. We went out basically looking for the games, looking for the opponents that Paddy needs to get the roster where he wants it, games the fans will like, that test the whole organization.”

After March 8th’s closed-door scrimmage with Sacramento Republic FC, SF City will launch their pre-season schedule on March 18th, on the road against newborn opponents Napa Valley 1839. Founded last December as members of the National Premier Soccer League, NV1839 will be playing their first-ever friendly match against outside competition when they host City at Napa’s Redwood School, before they move into Napa’s Memorial Stadium to open their first NPSL season a week later.

City’s competition gets a lot more seasoned from there on, as they take on the University of San Francisco Dons at Negoesco Stadium — SF City’s new home field — on April 1st. There won’t be many secrets left between these two sides, as a host of USF players have gone on to play for SF City. The Iron and Gold and the four-time NCAA champions have traded pre-season wins the past two years, with City winning 4-1 in 2015, and the Dons getting a measure of revenge with a 3-1 win last year.

“This is the one we have circled on the schedule, as far as the pre-season,” Coyne said. “It’s not just a friendly, it’s a showcase, it’s the big night of the year for football in San Francisco. The last two have been some of the most fun rivalry games I’ve been involved with, and you can really just feel tradition in the making when it’s City against USF.”

If USF are strong NCAA competition for SF City to face, then the back-to-back reigning NCAA Champions are as tough as it gets, as City visit the Stanford Cardinal at Steuber Rugby Stadium in Palo Alto on April 7. This game will also see some familiar faces on opposite sides of the ball, as City’s roster has some Stanford blood in its veins. The Cardinal counter with a squad with a few pieces missing from its recent championship runs, but all the tools they feel they need to mount a third one.

Just two days later, City head back to the Peninsula to face Belmont’s Notre Dame de Namur University on April 9. The Argonauts play in the Pacific West Conference in NCAA’s Division II, and will be more of a mystery to City than the familiar opponents of the previous two friendlies. With such a short turnaround time, there will be many City players on the field looking to make the most of their pre-season opportunity to earn playing time in the rapidly-approaching regular season.

Back in San Francisco, City will make a trip to Cox Stadium to face NCAA Division II’s San Francisco State University Gators on April 15. They go a little further afield to face the San Jose State Spartans at Spartan Stadium on April 22, before wrapping up an intense pre-season schedule against the Urban Knights of Academy of Art University, another Division II opponent, on April 29.

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SF City tie Sacramento Republic in first match of 2017

Match Report by Gabe Zitrin

Substitute Adnan Gabeljic’s last-second penalty brought them level, and San Francisco City FC enjoyed a solid start to their 2017 pre-season on Wednesday, with a 1-1 draw against USL side Sacramento Republic FC on a bright and windy day in the Central Valley.

The closed-door scrimmage at Sacramento’s Cosumnes River College marked the first match of SF City’s 2017, and head coach Paddy Coyne sent a largely veteran squad out to face a Sacramento team that mixed established starters with trialists and academy products. The home team took the lead nine minutes after the restart through Daniel Trickett-Smith, and surrendered it only with the game’s final kick of the ball after SF City’s Jose Mendoza was fouled while heading for goal.

“You can always train as much as you want,” Coyne said of the return to action, “but games are where you really see who’s fit, who’s sharp, who’s ready to go.” SF City center midfielder Danny Kirkland concurred, calling the day’s outing a “good test for us, good opposition, coming up here and playing against a pro team, a well-established team.”

Both sides struggled to create chances in the first half, with Sacramento’s team speed and SF City’s defensive skills snuffing out many half-chances before they’d begun. Kirkland and SF City center back Ben Brewster each made several vital interventions to short-circuit Sacramento attacks.

SF City managed the first real chance of the game 17 minutes in through winger Johannes Demarzi. The veteran found enough space for a cutting diagonal ball into the left channel aimed at the onrushing Carlos Carranza, whose one-time left-footed shot tested the reflexes of Sacramento goalkeeper Dominik Jakubek, who punched the ball over for an SF City corner. The hosts countered as the half went on with charging runs down the wings, and managed the best chance of the half in the 34th minute. SF City were lucky to escape unscathed after a corner kick from the right side bounced fortuitously to a Republic academy product on the far post, but the shot was scuffed inches wide.

The hosts would eventually break through in the 54th minute after a tough, physical play from forward Lamin Suma, who retained possession against two SF City defenders in the left channel, and forced enough space to put a lofted cross into the SF City box. Trickett-Smith was waiting at the far post and easily headed in past SF City’s Peter Swinkles for the lead.

With SF City chasing the game for some of the second half, play began to open up, and both teams created space for open shots from outside the box that went wide of their targets. SF City second-half substitution Dylan Murphy was a consistent threat to shoot from the perimeter, but was unable to equalize.

But SF City’s persistence would eventually pay off at the close of the game, after a quick one-two play in the box saw Mendoza get possession with a look at goal. Suma attempted to clear, but missed the ball and clipped Mendoza instead, and the referee pointed to the spot immediately. Gabeljic cooly finished low and to the right past Republic’s academy substitute goalkeeper to even the score. “In the second half we got our legs back, created a few more opportunities,” Coyne said. “I think the penalty was well deserved, it was coming.”

Not a moment too soon, as the next turn of events was the final whistle.

SF City have a ten-day break before their pre-season resumes, with a first look at brand new club Napa Valley 1839 on March 18 at Napa’s Redwood Middle School — this time open (and free) to fans. Kirkland, captain for the day, summed up the team’s overall mood after the match: “It’s nice to be back.”

Game Statistics:
Shots (on goal):
Republic FC 13 (4)
SF City FC 10 (6)

Fouls:
Republic FC 12
SF City FC 8

Saves:
Republic FC 5
SF City FC 3

Corner kicks:
Republic FC 2
SF City FC 1

Offside:
Republic FC 2
SF City FC 5

SF City Man of the Match:
Ben Brewster

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SF City to play back-to-back National Champions Stanford!!

Remember when Andrew Epstein made some final winning heroics in the 2016 College Cup Final!? Well now we’re playing Stanford, the back-to-back Division I National Champions in a preseason tune-up. SF City midfielders, Bryce Marion and Trevor Hyman are also two time National Champions with the Cardinal!

Join us on April 7th at 7pm live at the Steuber Rugby Stadium (adjacent to Laird C. Cagan Stadium) for this special preseason match!!

Also added to the calendar is an April 22nd match vs. San Jose State at 1pm.

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SF City partners with Street Soccer USA Park’s FIFA 17 Series!

SF City has been named as Presenting Sponsor of Street Soccer USA Park’s inaugural “FIFA 17” tournament series. The monthly competition will feature local players battling it out on the virtual fields of the highly popular video game.

Street Soccer USA Park, located at The Yard across from AT&T Park, will play host to the monthly competitions as players compete in a single elimination format to decide who will be named champion. SF City will provide all participants with tickets to a 2017 Home Game at Negoesco Stadium and as well as prizes for all semi-finalists, champions and runners-up.

Street Soccer USA Park’s General Manager Christian Martin stated, “We are very happy about this partnership because we know the work SF City FC is doing to unite San Francisco through soccer. These FIFA 17 tournaments will be a great way to bring members of the San Francisco soccer community together, whether your passion for the sport comes from playing out on the field or behind a game controller.”

“We are excited to continue our support of Street Soccer USA and the SSUSA Park’s ongoing efforts to serve the SF soccer community” said San Francisco City FC President Jacques Pelham. “The SSUSA Park is an amazing asset and we think this will be fun and entertaining way to help further SSUSA’s mission of using soccer for social good.”

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And They’re Back!

City Fans, please welcome back Manager Paddy Coyne and 1st Team Coach Shaun Ramsden!

The duo took over the reigns of SF City FC in the 2015 during the NorCal Premier League Summer session and have been with SF City ever since. In 2015, they guided SF City through a tough qualification process to get to the 1st Round of the U.S. Open Cup. For a first year club in the PDL, Coyne and Ramsden amassed a 6-6-2 record, finishing in 3rd place of the Central Pacific Division, narrowly missing a playoff berth.

Coyne, who has coached on 4 different continents and in 5 countries is delighted to be back stating, “I’m super excited for the upcoming season. We have some great players returning to the fold, as well as new talent to announce in the upcoming months. Our new stadium’s playing surface will suit our fast passing game and I’m sure the atmosphere will be very special with our wonderful support.”

With 20 years of coaching experience in the United States, Ramsden added, “Representing this City and the fans is something that makes me very proud. We learned so much about the league and its demands in our inaugural season. With more time to recruit, a new home venue, we are extremely excited and motivated to bring a winning mentality this summer.”

We look forward to having Paddy and Shaun leading our coaching staff in 2017!!