By Ryan Maquiñana
Special to S.F. Examiner
The San Francisco Glens of USL League 2 are proud to partner with the Examiner in highlighting a different boys’ or girls’ soccer team, coach, or player in The City each week.
With just 268 students, Leadership High School’s enrollment size pales in comparison to most rivals in the CIF San Francisco Section.
But when the smoke cleared last season, their boys’ soccer team emerged as league champions and advanced all the way to the NorCal Regional Division IV final.
“People see us as a small school, but we always have high expectations,” said Francisco Dominguez, the reigning CIF-SF Most Valuable Defender and captain of our Preseason No. 3 squad.
Athletic director Antonio Medina takes it a step further, pointing to the outdoor futsal court on campus and the lunchtime league that is quickly becoming the stuff of legend at Leadership.
“Our players have started a culture at school,” he said. “We have so many kids who want to play soccer for us now that our students gather around the yard to watch pick-up games like it’s the [UEFA] Champions League.”
It wasn’t always this way. When Leadership first moved to CIF-SF after a successful run in the Bay Counties League, they took some lumps.
“My freshman year, we got demolished,” Dominguez said. “Teams showed us no mercy on the scoreboard.”
But Medina had seen this story before. The Griffins’ AD is known around local soccer circles for having built previously obscure Bay City FC into a youth club powerhouse with multiple futsal national championships to his credit.
“It’s about dedication to each other,” Medina said. “We have Bay City kids here, and also kids from other clubs like Mission Green and the Glens’ [youth program]. They put their club stuff to the side for the Leadership family.”
In charge of this band of brothers is Mike Cisneros, the CIF-SF Division 1 Coach of the Year following a 13-6-1 season.
“At first we were playing very direct, but once the players started buying in, we grew into a team that allowed for individual creativity with purpose,” he said.
However, the heart of the team was in the center of the back line.
“Francisco has been a great leader,” Cisneros said. “He knows just what to say to his teammates.”
Dominguez does it all, including playing out of his natural position. Once a speedy and athletic forward, he was initially forced to play defense due to need.
“He has a 3.73 GPA, too. I’d like to see Francisco at S.F. State with Adrian,” Medina said, referring to his son—a midfielder for the Glens’ USL League 2 franchise and Bay City alumnus who just finished his redshirt freshman season in the collegiate ranks.
Behind Dominguez, the Griffins are in good hands with goalkeeper Mateo Peña-Sanchez, who recorded three shutouts in the playoffs as a freshman.
“I’ve always played up against older age groups at Bay City, so I was up to the challenge,” said Peña-Sanchez, whose captain praised his fearlessness.
“As a goalkeeper, he can see the whole game in a way I can’t, so if he tells me something, I listen,” Dominguez said. “Even if he’s [an underclassman], you have to know how to take advice before you can lead. He’s really impacted our team.”
The Griffins will need more of that maturity this season. After key losses like Anderson Muñoz and Jhovany Castaneda, Leadership will likely field four freshmen in its starting 11.
“We’re young, but our existing players gained so much experience that it won’t be as tough a transition,” Cisneros said. “Our goal is still to repeat as City champs.”
SAN FRANCISCO BOYS’ SOCCER PRESEASON TOP 10
1. St. Ignatius
5. June Jordan
7. Sacred Heart Cathedral
10. Stuart Hall
SAN FRANCISCO GIRLS’ SOCCER PRESEASON TOP 10
3. Sacred Heart Cathedral
5. St. Ignatius