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SF Glens Soccer Spotlight: Mission boys’ soccer led by humble heroes

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Mission High School soccer players (L-to-R) Hanibal Habte, Julio Gonzalez, Fernando Chirinos and Eduin Alvarado. (Courtey / Ryan Maquiñana)

By Ryan Maquiñana
Special to S.F. Examiner

The San Francisco Glens Soccer Club of USL League Two are proud to partner with the Examiner in featuring a different boys’ or girls’ high school team from The City every Sunday.

The Mission Bears are in the midst of a golden age under athletic director Arnold Zelaya.

Last year, Niamey Harris and the boys’ basketball team made history as the first San Francisco public school to win a state championship. Track and football star Jelani Al-Malik has established himself as the fastest prep in the CIF-SF Section. In addition, both the baseball and football teams came within one victory of capturing City titles of their own.

That success has spread to the soccer field, where the boys have emerged as a prime contender to win the Academic Athletic Association. After the first month of league play, the Bears have raced out to a 2-0-0 record and whopping 12-0 goal differential.

“We’ve been working for two-and-a-half years to play the way we want to play, which includes a lot of playing out of the back and handling pressure,” said head coach Jose Mendoza, who also plays midfielder for the San Francisco Glens’ USL League Two team.

Mendoza’s Bears have been dominant in non-league action as well, replacing University at No. 2 in the Examiner’s City rankings after a 4-1 victory over the Red Devils. Sparking the attack that day was senior center forward Julio Gonzalez, who notched a goal and assist.

“Julio can do it all,” Mendoza said. “He can score from outside the box or with his head. He can take on double-teams and still score. He just has a great awareness of knowing where the goalkeeper is no matter where he is on the field.”

Gonzalez was a scoring machine last season, tallying 26 goals and eight assists in just 16 contests to earn league MVP honors. After immigrating from El Salvador three years ago, he currently works two jobs as a busboy in local restaurants to help support his family in the Bay Area and in Central America.

“I love soccer because I feel free on the field,” Gonzalez said. “I forget about a lot of the problems I have, about my job, about everything. But I want to keep studying. My mom really wants me to go to college, and I think it could help me get a better job one day.”

UC Santa Cruz and other colleges have approached Gonzalez about playing at the next level — something that might have never happened without the free Bay Area College Soccer Combines that Mendoza and assistant coach Mauricio Diaz established last year in order to give local talent like Gonzalez exposure to college scouts.

“I’m just glad he got the opportunity to be seen,” said Mendoza, who moved between Mexico and the Bay Area several times himself as a teenager before finishing high school at Mission and earning a scholarship to play at UNLV. “That’s why we started doing these combines because a lot of kids like him never get the chance.”

As for the Bears’ chances at a league title, the AAA is arguably even more competitive than last season, when Mission coasted to the top seed with a 12-1-1 record only to be upset in the semifinals by June Jordan. With Lincoln, Washington and Lowell in the mix alongside defending champion Leadership, the race is wide open.

“A whole class of seniors and more went through Mission without winning the title,” Mendoza said, referring to the 2012 champs. “We’re excited to see if we can bring the trophy back for them.”

SAN FRANCISCO BOYS’ SOCCER TOP 10

  1. St. Ignatius
  2. Mission
  3. Lick-Wilmerding
  4. University
  5. Sacred Heart Cathedral
  6. Washington
  7. Stuart Hall
  8. Leadership
  9. Lincoln
  10. Urban

SAN FRANCISCO GIRLS’ SOCCER TOP 10

  1. Mission
  2. Sacred Heart Cathedral
  3. St. Ignatius
  4. Lowell
  5. Urban
  6. Leadership
  7. Washington
  8. University
  9. International
  10. Galileo

The SF Glens are entering their second USL2 season at Boxer Stadium. Featuring the best college talent in the Bay Area and ex-U.S. National Team captain Jimmy Conrad as new technical director, three current Glens participated in this week’s MLS Draft Combine. Learn more at SFGlens.com or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @SFGlensSC.

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