By Ryan Maquiñana
Special to S.F. Examiner
After languishing in soccer’s version of purgatory for the better part of May, the San Francisco Glens are one win away from entering the thick of the USL League Two playoff race.
If they can escape Santa Cruz on Sunday and take all three points from the host Breakers, the Glens would suddenly find themselves in second place in the Southwest Division table.
“It’s been frustrating,” said winger Rei Dorwart. “We’ve been so close the last three or four games. But we keep getting better every game, and I’m excited. I want more and a win Sunday would be big for us.”
Following a season-opening pair of defeats and a trio of heart-wrenching draws where San Francisco saw a lead disintegrate in each game, the Glens might have turned the corner after last Thursday’s 1-0 win at Boxer Stadium over the Southern California Seahorses.
“More often than not, things have not gone our way in terms of the results I felt we deserved,” said Glens head coach Javier Ayala-Hil. “The next step was getting the monkey off our back. It feels good to win.”
Wearing their new all-black third kits, the Glens dominated the majority of the game against the Seahorses but without a breakthrough goal, seemed destined for their fourth consecutive draw.
However, the two City natives on the roster would not allow the club to be denied this time around. Forward Steve Cordova, a Burton High School alumnus, intercepted a pass with two minutes left to play. He subsequently threaded the needle with a beautiful ball to Dorwart, and the Washington High School graduate buried the delivery into the back of the net.
Cordova and Dorwart, who played on the Glens’ inaugural USL League Two team last season, credited their existing rapport for the critical goal.
“Rei’s a local kid and grew up in the neighborhood next to mine,” Cordova said. “We played together last year and the chemistry is there. Now it’s about getting everyone else around us involved as well.”
Dorwart was in accord. “I was doing a lot of diagonal runs and Steve just found me with a great pass,” he said. “We’ve been playing together so he had that confidence in me to make that play. It’s been frustrating having chances and not being able to finish but this time, I’m glad I finally did.”
Perhaps the Glens’ progression can be best explained by what happened after Dorwart put them ahead. The 1-0 lead was almost short-lived when the Seahorses earned a free kick at the top of the box in the 92nd minute.
The attempt was on goal, but Glens goalkeeper Javier Santana leaped in the air to bat it away. After the defense thwarted one last salvo from the visitors, referee Turan Ozdemir blew the final whistle — new evidence that San Francisco could protect a lead and finish a close contest on top.
Now the task at hand for the Glens is earning their first triumph on the road. The Breakers swept the Glens in a pair of 1-0 matches in 2018, and this season, San Francisco snatched a 1-1 stalemate from the jaws of victory earlier this month at Boxer Stadium, when Santa Cruz equalized off a rebound in the waning minutes.
Forward Ettore Ballestracci, recently named to the Western Conference Team of the Week, will lead the Breakers’ attack.
“We gotta continue to put in the work,” Ayala-Hil said. “Now we gotta get back that win against Santa Cruz we missed out on over here.”
Sunday’s kickoff is 1 p.m. at Santa Cruz High School on 415 Walnut Avenue. The Glens return to Boxer Stadium on Sunday, June 30 at 1 p.m. when they take on the Ventura County Fusion.
KIBUNGUCHY NAMED TOP 50 PRO PROSPECT
The Glens’ Nabi Kibunguchy has begun to make his presence felt on the national stage. The UC Davis star was named to the USL League Two Top 50 Prospects list last week.
Kibunguchy, a 6-foot-3 dynamic midfielder from Elk Grove, has terrorized opponents from box to box, showing versatility as both a holding and linking midfielder.
He’s not the only potential future Major League Soccer SuperDraft selection on the squad; Cal goalkeeper Drake Callender and Stanford forward Zach Ryan were named to the league’s Top 100 list last month.
SF FIREFIGHTERS AVENGE LAST YEAR’S LOSS TO SFPD IN FIRST RESPONDERS CUP
Before the Glens and Seahorses took the field last Thursday, the SFYI Firefighters Local 798 edged the San Francisco Police Department Soccer Club in the second annual SF Glens First Responders Cup, 1-0. The result reversed last season’s blowout victory in favor of SFPD SC, led by Kerry Mullins.
After an intense first half where both teams had their moments, Patrick Casserly headed home a Con Lucy corner kick to give SFYI the only offense they needed to wrest away the trophy. Recently retired Joanne Hayes-White — the first woman to serve as San Francisco Fire Chief and the Glens’ Guest of Honor for the match — handed SFYI captain Will Dorsey the silverware.