The San Francisco Glens seemed to have turned the corner following their dramatic 1-0 win over the Southern California Seahorses last month. The victory catapulted the team within one win of second place in the competitive USL League Two Southwest Division. Unfortunately for them, they collided with the surging Santa Cruz Breakers and any momentum was halted in a 5-1 blowout.
Tariq Pulskamp was on the back line for both outings. The San Francisco State product has come a long way from his early days in Bakersfield, where one coach told him he wouldn’t play higher than the Division III level in college. But proving people wrong has become his calling card, and signing with the Glens has pulled him one step closer to his dream of becoming a pro. The Examiner caught up with Pulskamp before the Glens’ next road game on Friday at Whittier College against the Southern California Seahorses.
Q: When you return to the field on Friday, almost three weeks will have passed since your last game, a rough loss to Santa Cruz. What’s your approach like mentally after such a long layoff?
A: For me it serves as extra motivation. That’s the type of game when you want to play a game right after that. We’ll be looking to start the second half of the season strong.
Q: What went wrong that day? You guys worked so hard to tie the game in the first half, but the brakes fell off in the second half.
A: We can use any excuse. We were coming off a win. We were coming straight off the car into the game. But there are no excuses. It’s the type of game where everyone knows where we could’ve been better technically, but more importantly, mentally. The team has to come out 100 percent ready to perform. Everyone learned that lesson very quickly. It’s time to move forward.
Q: One important player missing in Santa Cruz was defender Aydan Bowers, who is now in Denmark on a trial with pro club FC Helsingor. You spent several years with patrolling the back line with him both at San Francisco State and now with the Glens. How big of a loss is that for the team?
A: Of course I’m going to miss him. He’s one of my best friends. One of the best defenders I’ve ever played with. Hopefully we’ll be reunited in our career paths. Any team would be smart to sign him.
Q: Why did you sign with the Glens?
A: I’ve had success with [head coach] Javi [Ayala-Hil] in the past when he coached me at SF State, and I saw what they did last year with the Glens developing all those future pros. To have four players drafted by MLS teams after your first year alone is an obvious sign that the club is doing things right. And to see what they’re doing with their youth club is special. If you could have a club that provides first-team opportunities to youth players and give them a structure where there’s an end goal, that’s what it’s all about. It’s one thing to dream about Barcelona and one thing to have this goal in front of you with the club you’re already at.
Q: Where would you say is your most comfortable area to play on the back line?
A: I’ve always seen myself as a center back or holding midfielder. I can hold it down on the outside positions as a defender as well, but the ability to be adaptable with my skill set is important to have.
Q: How has your time with the Glens been so far?
A: It’s indescribable to have me a chance to do what I want to do. I want to thank San Francisco for welcoming me and the Glens have provided me with an opportunity to do so. I think they’ll help me get to where I want to go, and it’s to be a pro. Hopefully the results will start to show.
Q: Did you always want to be a pro? When did you know soccer was what you wanted to do?
A: I was born and raised in Bakersfield. My dad was a wrestler at Boston College, and my brother and I tried other things like basketball and hockey and football. But soccer was always my favorite one. I remember being eight years old, and I just liked being outside rather than in a gym. In Bakersfield, you have the Kern County Soccer Park, and I remember enjoying the sights and smells. But I didn’t really start taking it seriously until I got into a club team at age 12. By then I was all in.
Q: This past month was tough on you physically compared with your teammates because as a practicing Muslim, you were observing Ramadan, where you can neither eat nor drink until sundown. For those who haven’t experienced it before, what is Ramadan like for an athlete?
A: Ramadan is a physical, spiritual, and mental awakening. It makes you realize how much you take for granted on a daily basis. It’s a mental toughening. There’s a beauty in there realizing of how much you have. It brings you in tune with the real world. It’s so hard the first couple days. It connects you to your spirit and being, especially when you’re not eating or drinking water. Fasting is an experience that’s well worth it. Now that’s it over I can focus on getting my physical levels up again.
Q: Unfortunately, the beautiful game has been in the headlines recently as a result of incidents of racism in the crowd, and sometimes on the field between players. Have you experienced anything like that?
A: I think when you’re younger, you don’t know how to react. At first when I was younger in Bakersfield, I let micro-aggressions slide. But when you grow older, you become more conscious and aware of it. It hasn’t happened recently, but you have to stand up for yourself if you have to.
Q: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to be where you are right now?
A: I know it’s so cliche, but hard work pays off. But what does that mean? Hard work is making yourself training when you don’t want to train. It’s more about responding to adversity. It’s inevitable when you’ll have days where you’ll get knocked down. The mental game and being resilient are getting more and more important for me as I get deeper in my soccer career. That’s my advice.
The Glens continue their road trip on Friday, June 21 at 7 p.m. against the SoCal Seahorses at Whittier College. The team will return to Boxer on Sunday, June 30th against the Ventura County Fusion at 1 p.m. for the club’s inaugural $2 Beer Night. Watch the live stream on twitch.tv/jimmyconrad or go to sfglens.com for more information.