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 boys’ and girls’ high school soccer in The City every Sunday. Vote now for the San Francisco High School Boys’ and Girls’ Player of the Year on SFGlens.com.
SAN FRANCISCO — Location, location, location.
Mission’s Asger Abildgren was in the right place at the right time on Saturday, emerging from a scrum for the ball in the 51st minute and scoring the only goal of the match to give the Bears a 1-0 win over Washington and the CIF San Francisco Section boys’ soccer title Saturday at Boxer Stadium.
“The cross came in from the right wing and I just thought the net’s right there, so if I can get to the ball, I need to poke it in,” the sophomore forward said.
Fellow forward Julio Gonzalez Ponce beat him to the punch, but the initial shot was tipped and teetered near the goal line, setting the stage for Abildgren to play the unlikely hero.
“I wasn’t sure if the ball went across the line and came back out,” Abildgren added. “Either way I just took the rebound and put it back in. I actually thought Julio had the goal so we celebrated with him, but I didn’t know it was me who scored until later. Either way, we’re just happy to win.”
The triumph not only handed Mission its first City championship since 2012, but also some peace of mind for head coach Jose Mendoza, a Mission alumnus who lifted the trophy after falling short in the semifinals his first two seasons at the helm.
“It was quiet at the dinner table last year,” said freshman midfielder Max Mendoza, who enrolled at Mission this past season to play for his big brother. “It was tough on him because he thought he could do more for the team and put it all on him.”
This time, the elder Mendoza’s resolve and tactically balanced attack made a statement about a program that has proven it can play with the best schools in the Bay Area.
“To me it’s not just about a championship, but about acknowledging each and every player who’s shown dedication and commitment throughout the whole season,” said Jose Mendoza, who doubled as a midfielder for the San Francisco Glens’ USL League Two team last season. “It feels great to see their hard work pay off and hope this title will place our student-athletes on college coaches’ radars.”
One of those legitimate prospects for a scholarship at the next level is Gonzalez Ponce, who is hopeful that UC Santa Cruz and the other schools who have recruited him will eventually come with an offer. After scoring 26 goals in 2017-18, the senior forward appeared in just nine games this season due to injury, but still managed to notch 13 goals to earn a finalist spot for San Francisco Player of the Year.
“I didn’t score the goal, but it doesn’t matter. I’m just happy for my teammates and the school that we finally brought the title to them,” said Gonzalez Ponce, who continues to work two jobs as a busboy in addition to his duties as a student to help support his family. In fact, he had to cut short his postgame celebration because he had to work a shift at Picaro Tapas Restaurant in the Mission.
Gonzalez Ponce was a marked man for 90 minutes and was kept off the scoresheet thanks to the collective effort of an organized Washington starting 11 that upset Mission 2-1 in their last meeting back on Feb. 12.
Fellow S.F. Player of the Year candidate Michael Herrera and Takumi “T.K.” Elbert were able to create several scoring chances but were unable to come up with the breakthrough to tie the game within the flow of play.
The Eagles had an opportunity to draw even with a penalty kick midway through the second half, but the shot by Herrera was denied by Mission goalkeeper Marcus Lau.
“It was a hard fought game that could have gone either way, but congratulations to Mission,” said Washington head coach Dante Popalisky. “We’re proud of our performance and of our season, and our players have their heads held high because they gave absolutely everything on the day.”
The newly-minted City champions will now play the waiting game for seeding in the Northern California Regionals.
“Now that we’re finally here, we definitely want to win NorCal and I think we can do it,” Mendoza said. “We’re just going to keep doing our best and fighting the way we have all season.”
The San Francisco Glens’ USL League Two home opener is May 17 at Boxer Stadium and will feature new amenities like the Carlsberg Beer Garden and Fan Zone, as well as new pre-game and in-game entertainment. Learn more about the 2019 schedule, ticket information, and more at SFGlens.com or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @SFGlensSC.