By Ryan Maquiñana
Special to S.F. Examiner
The San Francisco Glens of USL League Two continued to invest in local youth players, signing Mission High School star striker Julio González Ponce.
González Ponce, the reigning Examiner Boys’ High School Player of the Year after notching an astonishing 44 goals the past two seasons, agreed to a one-year contract pending league and federation approval.
“We’re really excited to sign Julio,” said Glens team president Mike McNeill. “Our mission with the Glens is to be a club for everyone, and we feel fortunate to have a USL League Two team at the top of our pyramid. It makes our club unique and gives us the ability to bring the best young players from all over San Francisco together to unite under one banner and test themselves to the limit.”
González Ponce, born and raised in El Salvador before immigrating to San Francisco three years ago, played club soccer for Bay City FC, now the Glens’ partner club. Now the forward makes the leap to the Glens’ first team in USL League Two, currently the highest-tier league in The City.
“I’m proud to see ‘Julito’ make the next step in his soccer career,” said Antonio Medina, Bay City founder who doubles as a youth coach in the Glens’ Celtic Academy. “He’s such a great kid on and off the field, so he deserves this opportunity.
“Unfortunately, a lot of kids from the inner-city in his situation never do. That’s why I’m so happy that Bay City and the Glens’ communities have come together, to offer all kids in San Francisco a legitimate pipeline to the next level.”
A speedy forward who can also play the wing, any questions about whether González Ponce could play against grown men were answered when he entered the second half of the Glens’ preseason game against Academy of Art University on April 19 and immediately tallied a goal and assist.
“I felt really comfortable here, so I’m happy to sign with the Glens,” González Ponce said. “I want to use this opportunity to thank everyone for believing in me here in San Francisco and back in El Salvador. I want to make everyone proud, so I’m going to work my hardest.”
Glens head coach Javier Ayala-Hil is cognizant of González Ponce’s situation; his mother also left El Salvador to seek a better life in the United States. Growing up in East Palo Alto, Ayala-Hil had similar obstacles getting seen by college coaches as a player before landing at Cal, which offered him a springboard to the professional ranks with stops at Chivas USA, Puerto Rico and Germany.
“We are happy to have one of the best local talents join us this season,” Ayala-Hil said. “It’s very well-deserved after such a successful career at Mission High School.”
Another local figure ecstatic to see him play with the Glens is his high school coach, Jose Mendoza Jr., who steered Mission to both a league title and the Bears’ first Northern California championship in school history this past season.
Mendoza’s family has deep ties with the Glens; not only did he play for Ayala-Hil on the USL2 team last season, his little brother Max is a youth player and his father Jose Sr. is a coach in the club’s Celtic Academy.
“I’m definitely proud of [Julio]. He’s been a crucial part of the team,” said Mendoza, who also earned the Examiner’s Boys’ High School Coach of the Year honors. “He just always knows where the goal is, and he’s one of the best players in The City.
“I’m glad to see him working with Javi to show what he’s got and continue to get this type of exposure. We’re hoping in the future that we have a lot more guys like Julio coming from our program, too.”
Now if only he can get the days off. In addition to taking a curriculum at Mission that includes two Advanced Placement courses, González Ponce has been busy working two jobs as a busboy in the Mission to help support his family in San Francisco and sends whatever money is left back to El Salvador.
“It’s hard to balance everything,” he said, “but I’ve been doing what I can to help my family. I’m just happy for this opportunity, and that Javi and the club believe in me.”
The Glens open their season on the road against crosstown rival SF City FC at Kezar Stadium on May 5 at 6 p.m.
The San Francisco Glens’ USL League Two team had four players from last season selected in the MLS SuperDraft, so come watch the next wave of homegrown soccer stars this summer. With a Beer Garden and new Fan Zone as part of the Boxer Stadium game experience in 2019, get your single-game and season tickets now before the May 17 home opener at sfglens.com/tickets.