Although the University of San Francisco men’s soccer team is currently battling through the expected growing pains of a rebuild, a two-way weapon is emerging off the bench for first-year coach Leonard Griffin.
Super substitute Shayan Charalaghi scored twice in under 20 minutes to keep the Dons in last Thursday’s road game against Sacramento State, but the Hornets would answer with two goals of their own and ultimately pull away for a 4-2 victory. Charalaghi and USF (2-4-0) will face No. 14 Cal State Fullerton (6-0-0) on Sunday at 5 p.m. at Negoesco Stadium.
“It was a tough one,” Charalaghi said of the defeat, which snapped the Dons’ two-game win streak. “But we’re a young team, so we’re all still learning and getting to know each other.”
Despite playing on the back line as a defender, Charalaghi has become an offensive force during his time on the field.
In his last three games, the South San Francisco native has notched five points — four from the aforementioned two goals on three shots on goal, and an additional point after securing his first assist in a win over San Jose State last week.
“When I was younger, I played winger before I got tall and moved to center back,” Charalaghi said. “ I’ve kind of known how to be in the right place at the right time on offense.”
Before signing with USF as a junior transfer, the 6-foot-2 defender signed an amateur contract with the San Francisco Glens in USL League Two last April, in order to play at the highest level possible in The City while keeping his college eligibility intact.
Playing under the tutelage of Glens head coach Javier Ayala-Hil and assistant coaches Gabe Saucedo and Javi Hernandez, Charalaghi captured a starting spot in central defense for most of the summer-based season. The El Camino High School product actually landed with the USL2 club after earning junior college All-American honors at Skyline College, where Saucedo also serves as head coach.
Charalaghi’s development also benefited from having an accomplished tutor at his position to round out the Glens’ staff — former U.S. National Team central defender and 2005 MLS Defender of the Year Jimmy Conrad, now the club’s technical director.
“It was definitely beneficial,” Charalaghi said. “Playing for the Glens was a step up. It’s been a great bridge to preparing myself for USF.”
Charalaghi hasn’t had to change too much in his routine, since Ayala-Hil and Hernandez have since joined Griffin’s staff on the Hilltop.
“It’s been great having that familiarity with the coaches,” Charalaghi said. “All the players seem to like the new coaching staff. They’re all young, so they can really relate to the players.”
Staying disciplined and alert for 90 minutes will be key for the Dons this Sunday against a familiar face. Washington High School graduate Rei Dorwart, Charalaghi’s teammate with the Glens this summer, plays winger for the Titans.
“I’m definitely looking forward to that one, to see Rei-Rei again,” Charalaghi said. “They’re ranked pretty highly, but hopefully we’ll be ready and do what it takes to win.”
The game will be streamed live on watchstadium.com.
SF STATE TAKES ROAD TRIP TO SANTA CRUZ
San Francisco State (2-1-0) will travel south to UC Santa Cruz (3-2-1) on Sunday at 2 p.m., but without an important cog in their attack.
Midfielder Adrian Medina, who lifted the Gators to a 1-0 double-overtime win over Holy Names last Thursday, aggravated a foot injury that caused him to redshirt his freshman year. Diagnostics revealed a severe sprain, meaning Medina, who also played for the Glens this past summer, will be out for four to six weeks.
SF State still possesses a glut of firepower on offense. Last Sunday, the Gators downed Dominican 3-1. Senior midfielder Jonny Orozco, who also featured for the Glens’ USL League Two team this summer, scored his first goal.
The UC Santa Cruz roster contains some local flavor as well. Senior defender James Allison, a Sacred Heart Cathedral alumnus, starts on the back line for the Banana Slugs and is a threat to score.
GLENS’ YOUTH QUARTET TO TRAIN WITH GERMAN PARTNER CLUB’S ACADEMY
The Glens’ partnership with German club Holstein Kiel continues to bear fruit, as the 2. Bundesliga club has identified four youth players to train across the pond next week with their academy.
Glens director of coaching Mike McNeill will accompany Under-18 forward Declan O’Flynn and a trio of Under-17 players — forward Kevin Estrada, winger Diego Grande and defender Xander Sagatelyan — on their voyage to Germany.
Last month, Glens first-team midfielder Amir Bashti made the trip to Kiel and trained with Holstein’s Under-23 team; he eventually parlayed the experience into a professional contract with Atlanta United FC 2 in the USL Championship.
“This is what we envisioned our partnership to be like,” McNeill said. “We’re so thankful to give this opportunity to our kids to come to Kiel and train at such a high level.”