By Gabe Zitrin
San Francisco City FC head coach Paddy Coyne barely cracked a smile, but his squad move forward towards the Premier Development League season with an unmistakable shot in the arm after winning 1-0 over back-to-back NCAA Champion Stanford University in a preseason friendly on Friday in drizzly Palo Alto. Stanford alum Felipe Noguerol’s 77th minute header and a spectacular performance from their back line helped SF City avenge their 4-1 defeat at the hands of the champs a year ago, and build momentum and sharpness for the rest of the preseason schedule.
Both teams managed only half-chances in the early going, but Stanford, whose starting eleven featured no fewer than four players set to join SF City this Summer, began to show by the late first half why the last two NCAA championship trophies are theirs. A sensational buildup play with a soft back pass left past and future SF City player Bryce Marion with time alone in the center of the box in the 38th minute, but SF City goalkeeper Alex Clewis came up with the most important save of the night to keep the match scoreless.
Sam Werner was the next Cardinal headed for SF City in the Summer to make a mark on his future teammates, after he took a beautiful throughball from midfielder Jared Gilbey to beat the SF City defense and fired just wide right with a left-footed strike in the closing seconds of the first half. The visitors managed a number of half-chances and shots on goal during the half, but none appreciably stretched Cardinal goalkeeper Charlie Furrer.
As the second half progressed, the hosts continued to enjoy most of the possession, but kept running into physical and athletic defense from the SF City back line, with John Quintanilla, Ben Brewster, and Christian De Luna each cutting out numerous attacks with force and finesse. With the rain picking up again, Stanford managed the most solid chances of the early second half through future SF City players Marion and Foster Langsdorf, reigning co-Player of the Year in the Pac-12, and it looked as though they were likelier to break the deadlock.
But a trio of second half substitutes for SF City had other ideas. Johannes Demarzi played a diagonal ball for the consistently lively Gerardo Mendoza, who worked space along the right side of the end line and lofted a cross to the far side of the box, where Noguerol was waiting to torment his former team with a looping header that left no chance for Furrer and found the top left corner.
With the first goal of the game, the speed of the hosts’ play went haywire, and the closing minutes saw SF City forced into a number of desperate clearances to hang onto their lead, but they came up with every one that they needed, and held on for a tough, valuable win.
There’s no rest for the weary, though, as SF City’s next friendly comes Sunday night at Division II’s Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont. But it can’t be denied that they know a lot more about their capabilities and can’t help but feel more optimistic as the start of their second PDL season draws closer.
SF City Man of the Match: Ben Brewster
Fouls: Stanford 10, SF City 10
Corners: Stanford 10, SF City 1
Shots (on goal): Stanford 7(2), SF City 7(5)
Offside: No one? The whole night? Huh.
Cautions: Barry McCabe (SF City), 27’ (hard challenge)