Marco Iubel (in white) scored twice in the Glens’ season opener last Sunday. (Photo Vlad Frenkel)

SF Glens Soccer Spotlight: Five reasons to watch

Five reasons to watch the 2019 USL League Two season

By Ryan Maquiñana

Special to S.F. Examiner

The San Francisco Glens enter their second season in USL League Two with a playoff berth and a spot in next year’s U.S. Open Cup on their minds.

However, it won’t be easy, since only the champion of their eight-team Southwest Division will earn guaranteed entry, and with a short 14-game regular season to decide it all, the importance of each contest is magnified.

The week-by-week intensity is akin to college football, and after dropping their opening contest 3-2 to crosstown rival SF City FC last Sunday, the Glens are off to a less-than-ideal start. The good news is that they still have just a little over two months to climb their way back up the mountain, starting with next Friday’s 6 p.m. home opener at Boxer Stadium against the Santa Cruz Breakers.

Here are five reasons why you should make it out to Balboa Park to — as Glens first-year technical director and ex-U.S. Men’s National Team captain Jimmy Conrad would say — watch a bunch of guys in small shorts kicking a ball around.

1. Support the local boys.

The Glens’ roster is loaded with the top young talent in the Bay Area, and a lot of it comes from right in the heart of The City. From San Francisco State’s All-American center back Aydan Bowers to the electric reigning Examiner Prep Player of the Year Julio Gonzalez Ponce of Mission High School, the team is proud to showcase homegrown players. The latest example was signing four players (Xander Sagatelyan, Diego Grande, Kevin Estrada and Eric Pearce) from their own youth academy, with the quartet already seeing substantial minutes in the preseason and combining for two goals.

In addition, the Glens will boast yet another crop of future pro stars from the current collegiate ranks after having four players selected in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft (Sam Junqua, Roy Boateng, Shinya Kadono, Sam Ebstein). All-Pac-12 goalkeeper Drake Callender of Cal, UC Davis holding midfielder Nabi Kibunguchy and Stanford forward Zach Ryan are the new Glens that the USL League Two has named to their Top 100 Pro Prospects list.

2. The coaching staff is stacked.

Though the addition of Conrad made the biggest buzz in the offseason, the existing coaching staff already features some of the top young local minds in the sport. Javier Ayala-Hil, who led SF State to their first postseason berth since 1978, remains the head coach. Gabe Saucedo, a St. Ignatius product who has steered Skyline College to a top-20 junior college national ranking, and Holy Names assistant Javier Hernandez round out an impressive development team.

3. The new Fan Zone and Glens Beer Garden.

Glens fans of all ages will be able to enjoy themselves in the revamped Fan Zone behind the stands, where the team will have face-painting, inflatable goals, and FIFA 19 mini-tournaments among other activities. The pop-up team store will also feature the new gear, which includes a third alternate jersey that will be revealed to the public on Wednesday.

The eating options will include a different food truck every game, and for the adults, an actual Glens Beer Garden with benches, heating lamps, and a variety of internationally and locally loved beers and wines, like Carlsberg Lager, Speakeasy Prohibition Ale and Big Daddy IPA, Somersby Cider, and both Gallo Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.

4. Honor The City’s soccer community.

The Glens will be celebrating the achievements of our San Francisco soccer players on the field throughout their seven home-game schedule, starting with next Friday’s season opener at Boxer Stadium. The team’s first halftime honorees will be the boys and girls that earned spots on the inaugural Examiner High School All-City First and Second Teams, as well as individual award winners like Gonzalez Ponce and SF High School Girls’ Coach of the Year Amber Wilson of Lowell.

5. It’s the top level of soccer in San Francisco.

Despite the absence of a Major League Soccer club in The City, the Glens compete in USL League Two, the highest level in the area. As the top Under-23 league in the country, USL2 alumni make up over 70 percent of all MLS SuperDraft picks. Before U.S. National Team players Nick Lima and Corey Baird starred for the San Jose Earthquakes and Real Salt Lake, respectively, they were teammates on the Burlingame Dragons in the very same league the Glens play in today.

So head over to Boxer Stadium next Friday, order an ice-cold beer or three, and cheer your lungs out for the San Francisco side in green and white. You’ll be glad you did.

Don’t miss the Glens’ season opener at Boxer Stadium in Balboa Park. Individual game tickets are just $10 for adults and $5 for youth. Check out sfglens.com/tickets for more.

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