Nerdy Gales discovers semi professional soccer in the San Francisco Bay Area, and one team that has finally found a home at San Francisco's historic Kezar Stadium.
I’m feeling restless. It's an awfully long time since I sat down and watched a San Jose Earthquakes game at Buck Shaw stadium – the May game against the Columbus Crew when Alan Gordon scored another late game equalizer. Since then, we’ve had a couple of US Open Cup ties at Stanford’s petite Cagan Field to tide fans over until the LA Galaxy and fireworks spectacular across the campus parking lot on June 30th.
The next ‘home’ Earthquakes game is the June 26th tie against the Seattle Sounders on June 26th. The venue will be historic Kezar Stadium, the original home of the 49ers - though for me, as a British teenager, it was my introduction to a far away city called San Francisco when I watched Dirty Harry wield the most powerful handgun in the world against the Scorpio killer in the middle of the pitch. Reconstructed in 1989, Kezar now has a 10,000 seating capacity and has been home to the city's cricket, lacrosse and Gaelic football.
Even with the Quakes’ success in the USOC, there’s a three week drought without a full or reserve squad home games. Fueled by an ‘I-miss-the-smell-of-footy-on-real-grass’ feeling, I was mulling over my options when I came across another reason to venture forth to Kezar for a soccer game, and it's coming up this weekend. Back in March, just before the Quakes season started, I stumbled (quite literally) on the SF Stompers FC playing beach soccer during a bracing walk along Ocean Beach. As I watched spectacular barefoot bicycle kicks generating arcs of sand, I wondered who these impressive players were - I discovered they are one of three Bay Area teams in the semi-professional National Premier Soccer League (NPSL): the SF Stompers FC, the Bay Area Ambassadors, and Real San Jose.
The newest team on the block, the Stompers are brand new to the league this season, and have been playing in claret and orange in their temporary home at Terra Nova High School in Pacifica. It was always their intention to play in their home city, but circumstances worked against them finding an immediate home in San Francisco. Already more than half way through their season, with one win, two ties and three losses, their first game at Kezar is scheduled for 3 PM on June 16th against Sacramento Gold - and after a couple of recent heavy defeats, the Stompers are undoubtedly hoping for better luck in their new home. The only remaining opportunity to see them at Kezar this season will be on July 7 against Sonoma Sol.
Mike Gonos, veteran Ultra and die-hard San Jose Earthquakes fan, has already been watching the Stompers play this season – for him it’s about supporting local clubs at all levels of soccer: “We are very lucky here: NPSL has three Bay Area clubs, and three more within a couple of hours’ drive. It's like living in a miniature version of London - we've got so many local rivalries, particularly the Ambassadors, over in Oakland”. With the switch to Kezar Stadium in place, the SF Stompers FC will have finally moved into their new home. That’s a feeling that resonates with me as one of the squatters in Buck Shaw - while we are grateful for the hospitality of our gracious hosts, we can’t wait to move into our own place. As Mike points out: “Kezar has the history, it’s here in the city, and it's a great location. Being able to hop on the N-Judah and be at the match in a few minutes makes it truly local football...and with Kezar, we have a real chance to forge ties with the local pubs”.
I’ll drink to that. The mid-afternoon kick-off provides plenty of time for a leisurely lunchtime pint (or two) at The Kezar Pub while watching the final round of Euro 2012 Group A games on TV. So, if you're craving live soccer this weekend, consider a drive into Fog City, hop on a Muni bus or ride the N-Judah line to take in a game of this freshly minted soccer team at one of the most historic sporting sites in the Bay Area.
Photo credits: Lyndsay Radnedge of Center Line Soccer.
Match Update: It was a picture perfect, fog-free afternoon in San Francisco for the ground-breaking game at San Francisco's Kezar Stadium. In a closely fought match the SF Stompers earned some redemption over current 2012 NPSL Northwest 1st place Sacramento Gold for a 9-0 defeat in Sacramento earlier in the season. Forward Liam Whelan scored a header early in the second half that proved to be the game winner off a set piece crossed in by Andres (Felipe) Cabrera, and goalkeeper BJ Forte kept the clean sheet, resulting in a 1-0 victory for the SF Stompers FC .
Photos by Lyndsay Radnedge here.