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.