By Ryan Maquiñana
Special to S.F. Examiner
The San Francisco Glens entered the 2019 season in the fourth-division USL League Two with raised expectations.
After their 2018 campaign ended with a four-game unbeaten streak and a quartet of players selected in the Major League Soccer SuperDraft, the addition of former U.S. National Team captain Jimmy Conrad as technical director appeared to serve as the momentum the club needed to rise into playoff contention.
Unfortunately for head coach Javier Ayala-Hil and the Glens, they would find themselves in a sophomore slump that, at times, bordered on bizarre.
In 10 of their 14 regular-season games, the Glens held the lead. In four of those 10, the lead was by two or more goals. Ultimately, they lost all but two of those 10 matches to finish eighth in the Southwest Division. In every single one of the other eight games, the opposition equalized or scored the go-ahead goal in the second half.
The injury bug also bit the club, as Ranier Plantinos — the Glens’ leading scorer in 2018 — played fewer than 45 minutes all season after hurting his ankle.
Despite the results, there were plenty of bright spots that give the Glens hope for a turnaround in 2020.
Forward Marco Iubel paced the team with five goals and three assists, while Stanford star Zach Ryan and longtime club fixture Steve Cordova netted three apiece.
The Glens were able to give opportunities to the youth players in their system, as well as sign players from their second team that continues to play in the historic SFSFL amateur league.
Last season, midfielder Adrian Medina, who came up through the Glens’ partner club Bay City FC, became the first player from the youth umbrella to sign and see action for the club in USL League Two.
In 2019, the Glens signed 12 players who either spent time with their SF Glens Evolution youth club, Bay City FC, or the SFSFL second team. In a league where the players are predominantly at the Under-23 level, five of those 12 players are 16-years-old or younger.
Of course, a youth movement comes with its own set of growing pains on the pitch, and the Glens would definitely feel the effects in the table.
“No one said it was going to be easy starting a USL2 club from scratch,” said general manager Mike McNeill, who doubles as the SF Glens Evolution director. “Ultimately, one of our goals for this first team is to have as many homegrown players as possible on the field, and we took some big steps to get closer to achieving that down the line.”
Ayala-Hil and his staff’s ability to develop and nurture talent did not go unrecognized. For a second straight season, professional clubs have come to sign prospects from the Glens.
This time, it was midfielder Yohannes Harish and defender Aydan Bowers. Harish, who had inked a deal with new third-division club Oakland Roots SC after a stellar campaign with the Glens in 2018, played with San Francisco on a season-long loan deal. Meanwhile, Bowers earned a trial and a subsequent contract with Danish pro club FC Helsingor. Midfielders Nabi Kibunguchy, still a rising senior at UC Davis, and diminutive Diego Lopez are prospects on the rise.
“We believe in what we’re doing, especially building this club from the ground up,” McNeill said.
INAUGURAL SF GLENS OPEN GOLF TOURNAMENT SET FOR SEPT. 13
The Glens’ youth club, SF Glens Evolution, will hold its inaugural charity golf tournament, the Glens Open, on Friday, Sept. 13 at Presidio Golf Club in San Francisco.
The tournament is a four-player scramble, and will include a lunch, range balls and a banquet dinner and charity auction. Tickets are open to SF Glens Evolution members as well as the public. All funds raised will go to the SFGE Scholarship Fund, which allows players from low-income neighborhoods to have access to everything the club has to offer.
Since establishing their youth club in 2011, the Glens have never turned down a single player due to financial hardship. After growing from two recreational teams to over 70 teams at recreational, futsal, and competitive levels, the need to ensure that all San Franciscans can participate in the club has never been greater.
Tickets can be purchased at sfge.ticketspice.com/sfge-golf.