By Gabe Zitrin
Late heroics, hard challenges, screaming fans, a sun-drenched setting — San Francisco City FC’s 2017 Premier Development League home opener had everything except a winner, as they finished drawn 1-1 with local rivals Burlingame Dragons. A 90th minute header by SF City forward Bryce Kaminski cancelled out a 61st minute one-time strike by Burlingame’s Matt Wiesenfarth, and the two teams will have to wait at least eight days until their rematch on the Peninsula to claim full bragging rights in the derby.
The game started under bright sunshine before a strong pro-City crowd, and the Iron and Gold obliged their fans by starting strong themselves, with Carlos Carranza drawing the biggest applause of the first half for a weaving 13th minute run that beat several defenders but ended in a toe-poked shot that went inches wide. Wiesenfarth let it be known soon after that he would be the toughest man for SF City to contain on the day, as he worked a left-footed shot for himself in the 21st minute that drew a full-extension, fingertip save from SF City’s Alex Clewis.
The visitors remained in control for much of the first half, and after a near miss from distance by Elli Padilla, it was Wiesenfarth who created the best chance of the half. The UC Davis man stole the ball in an advanced position in the 41st minute and drove in on goal, laying the ball off to Diego Lopez. But SF City’s John Quintanilla was alert and saved Lopez’s shot off the line to send the game into the break scoreless.
15 minutes after the half, the Dragons finally broke the deadlock, as Gabe Silveira made a long run down the left sideline and cut the ball back into the box for Wiesenfarth, who expertly kept his shot down and gave Clewis no chance to save. With strong spells of possession, and crisp passing, it looked as if the visitors might send SF City’s first crowd of the year home grumpy. But SF City’s attacking quartet of Kirkland, Kaminski, Bobby Edwards, and substitute Ashley Watson came alive in the final 15 minutes of the game, creating several half-chances and forcing last-ditch clearances from the Dragons.
Their pressure and persistence finally paid off just as the game entered the 90th minute with an equalizing goal that began with a handball call against Burlingame 40 yards from out. Dead-ball specialist Kirkland, who played his college soccer at Negoesco as a USF Don, put a soaring left-footed ball into the box, where Kaminski, who plays at USF now, leapt to meet it, narrowly beating Dragons goalkeeper Mitch North to the ball and heading into an open net. The stadium erupted, and Kaminski headed straight for the Northsiders supporters club, leaping into the arms of the fans.
With only second-half stoppage time remaining, both teams somehow used the time to very nearly snatch outright victory out of nothing. First, Kaminski followed up his goal with an audacious attempt to chip the goalkeeper from the center circle, and though he wasn’t beaten over the top, North nearly let the ball sneak past him. Crisis averted, Burlingame almost stole a win with the last play of the game, as an attempt to save a headed shot from 12 yards saw Clewis slip on the turf and the ball bounce off the crossbar before being cleared to end the match.
The final whistle of the match was only temporary when it comes to this local rivalry, as these two teams will play each other twice more before the regular season ends. Burlingame gets no rest after today’s affair; they return home to face Fresno Fuego tomorrow. SF City have more than a week to prepare to face the Dragons again, this time at Burlingame High School at 4pm on Sunday, May 21.