By Gabe Zitrin
Two historic Northern California clubs and two of the loudest supporters’ groups in the West — there’s rarely been a lull in the action when San Francisco City FC meets Fresno Fuego, and there isn’t likely to be one when they meet Sunday either for a 1pm kickoff at Negoesco Stadium.
Though both teams in the Premier Development League’s Southwest Division have undergone a host of roster changes from a year ago, no one in either legendarily noisy fan-base will forget the controversy of that year, when the Fuego were forced to forfeit their home match to SF City after accidentally exceeding the number of permitted substitutions. And neither fan-base will forget the Fuego’s revenge either, as they won 2-0 against SF City at Kezar Stadium two months later to eliminate the Iron and Gold from PDL playoff contention.
Off to a blazing 2017 start worthy of their name, the Fuego have won all three of their Premier Development League games this season, outscoring their opponents 11-2. Jose Cuevas’ four goals lead the way for Fresno, followed by Joey Chica’s three. Each punished SF City rivals Burlingame Dragons with two in a game earlier in the season, and both will look to continue to feast on Bay Area opponents.
SF City, meanwhile, are fully rested after a hectic opening to the season, and won’t be playing on the second of back to back days as they were in last year’s home loss. They’re also increasingly confident that they can handle whatever challenges are presented to them in their new mountaintop home — last-minute heroics have been the theme of their home games so far, with Bryce Kaminski’s 90th minute header earning a draw with the Dragons, and Carlos Carranza’s one-time strike capping a three-goal comeback in last week’s 3-2 win over Ventura County Fusion.
Down 2-0 a half-hour in on two Fusion goals against the run of play, SF City rebounded brilliantly behind captain Danny Kirkland, whose penalty kick and free kick goals tied the score before the half, giving SF City the momentum they needed coming out of the locker room. One beautiful buildup and one game-winning goal from Carranza later, they took home three much-needed points in the PDL Southwest Division standings. With two teams with perfect records ahead of them, including Sunday’s opponent, SF City won’t be able to take a game off in their push for Division supremacy.
Fans who arrive early to Negoesco will get another treat — as they did last year, the San Francisco Nighthawks of the Women’s Premier Soccer League will host the Fresno Fuego Ladies for an opening match, beginning at 11am. The two teams drew 1-1 last year at Kezar and will be battling every bit as hard as the men will for points and bragging rights alike.