By 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: