By Ryan Maquiñana
Special to S.F. Examiner
The San Francisco Glens Soccer Club of USL League Two are proud to partner with the Examiner in featuring a different boys’ or girls’ high school soccer team every Sunday.
The path of least resistance is a foreign concept to the University High School boys’ soccer team.
Though it would be more convenient to pad their win totals with easy games before entering league play, the Red Devils have set up a non-conference gauntlet that has featured marquee matchups with a trio of preseason top-10 teams — St. Ignatius, Sacred Heart Cathedral and Mission.
“We try to schedule as many challenging games early,” said head coach Deejae Johnson. “It’s also a great showcase for soccer in The City.”
University held its own but was unable to escape the aforementioned stretch fully unscathed, picking up a 1-1 draw against the Wildcats, a gutsy 2-1 victory over the Irish, and a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of a determined Bears team on Wednesday.
Based on Johnson’s unwaveringly calm demeanor, though, his team is right on schedule.
“In soccer, anything can happen. You can dominate a game and lose, or sneak a win at the end. We don’t try to get too hung up on the results,” Johnson said. “Ultimately, we want to be the best version of ourselves so we can compete in whatever competitions we’re in.”
These early trials are a major reason why, during Johnson’s tenure, the Red Devils have won 11 league titles, three North Coast Section crowns, and last season, runner-up honors in NorCal Division III.
“Every year you have the challenge of allowing for the new group to establish their own identity,” said Johnson, who once played with the San Francisco Bay Seals of the old USL A-League. “When guys step into new positions or roles, some easily step into that moment, and others need time to figure it out.”
Case in point: Star midfielders Marco da Cunha and Nico Petry-Mitchel left a gap in midfield following their graduation. As a result, Johnson has been forced to summon Max Edelstein and Zeke Ume-Ukeje from their usual spots as forward and winger — respectively — to fill the void.
“Max is so smart on the field that he’s picked things up so quickly,” said senior captain Henry Gorelik, who anchors the back line. “He can score, but also knows how to create chances. He’s the heart and soul of our offense.”
Edelstein has already committed to Colgate and will be tasked with replacing graduating Raiders forward Abdel Sanogo, who also saw minutes for the San Francisco Glens’ USL League Two team this past summer.
According to teammates, Ume-Ukeje is the hardest worker on the team and a “jack of all trades” due to his speed and agility.
“It’s different from the wing, but I like being in the middle of the action all the time,” Ume-Ukeje said. “There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with my new position as far as moving box-to-box and taking care of the ball, and being a linking piece from the defense to the offense.”
The Red Devils hope the new midfield pairing jells before January. After competing independently for two years, University has rejoined the Bay Counties League with new objectives in mind.
“I want to win the BCL in our first year back and return to NorCal, but we’re looking to win an NCS title,” Gorelik said. “My sophomore year, we lost the NCS final by penalties, and last year, we lost in the semifinals. This time we’re looking to get over the hump and bring that trophy back to University, too.”
The SF Glens are entering their second USL2 season at Boxer Stadium, featuring the best college talent in the Bay Area and ex-U.S. National Team captain Jimmy Conrad as new technical director. Learn more at SFGlens.com or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @SFGlensSC.
SAN FRANCISCO BOYS’ SOCCER TOP 10
1. St. Ignatius
7. Sacred Heart Cathedral
9. Stuart Hall
SAN FRANCISCO GIRLS’ SOCCER TOP 10
3. Sacred Heart Cathedral
5. St. Ignatius