A new rivalry was born in the PDL this season between the Burlingame Dragons of San Mateo, California and San Francisco City FC. Both teams are on the San Francisco Peninsula. This new rivalry has a lot of potential, as both clubs have been relatively successful in their short history as far as community recognition goes. Burlingame is gaining traction as the San Jose Earthquakes’ PDL affiliate with strong financial backing; they were featured on MLSsoccer.com earlier this year. SF City is gaining notoriety as one of the many emerging supporter-owned clubs across the country, building a grassroots club; they were featured on MLSsoccer.com a year ago, as well.
The proximity of the two clubs is the first factor making this potentially a top derby. Burlingame is in San Mateo, which is a suburb of both San Jose and San Francisco. The Dragons’ home stadium is actually closer to the SF Airport than SF City’s home stadium. The two stadiums are less than 20 miles apart, just a short drive down 101, or a quick hop onto Cal Train. The Burlingame stop is directly outside the stadium making for easy access.
While the rivalry may still be young, the first game on June 12th showed all the signs of a great derby. The Northsiders (the SF City Supporters’ group) showed up with their traditional flags and drum, and made their voices heard. While only maybe 30 in total, they brought the noise. Burlingame was coming off of their home opener where they drew a very nice crowd for 4th tier US soccer, and did so again in both derby matches.
The rivalry could be seen on the field, in the stands, and even on twitter. Both teams played as hard as I’ve seen from either club this season. The close proximity means many of the players know each other through years of playing with and against each other in youth soccer all the way through college. Every challenge was coming in at 100% to start the game, and both teams looked up for the game. They all seemed to be aware of the growing rivalry between the two sides.
The rivalry was most evident in the stands. The Northsiders constant signing and taunting in the first game led to the Dragons’ mascot engaging in some banter with the supporters by waving a green and black flag in their face, taunting them. As well, some of the young Dragons’ supporters began to wave their club’s flags in front of the Northsiders.
While the Dragons’ support was not nearly as vocal in their two home matches as the support of the Northsiders, the Northsiders’ presence did lead to a few chants from the Dragons’ supporters. The second game on June 24th was matched in intensity. The Burlingame fans began to show some vocal support in response to the atmosphere the Northsider’s brought to the first game and again to the second. It is likely that the fan banter will only grow in the years to come in this derby.
The proximity of the two clubs is not the only thing fueling this rivalry. The style differences of the two clubs adds to this derby. SF City has more of a young adult supporter base and is an inner city team. As well, SF City is a grassroots supporter-owned club. In contrast, the Dragons are more family friendly, and set up in the suburbs, with more young children and parents in attendance than young adults. The Dragons have a mascot and jumper gym on site, and the atmosphere is similar to that of many minor league baseball stadiums across the country, basically a nice Friday night out with the family. The Dragons also have a bigger financial backing than a new supporter-owned club, and possess a realistic possibility of moving up to the USL in the years to come.
For some fans of SF City, the biggest factor creating this new rivalry, aside from the close proximity, may be the fact that current Burlingame Club President Jordan Gardner was part of the SF City FC front office just last year. This alone is not what is going to make this a big rivalry, but it can definitely add some fuel to the fire in the eyes of the City supporters.
In the opening game, Burlingame dominated the match as Danny Musovski scored a hat trick and the Dragons went on to win 4-0. SF City never looked like a serious threat in that game and made a number of basic errors. In the second match, an early penalty kick to the Dragons again gave them the early lead. But this time City did not get blown out and fought back to loose 2-1.
The rivalry will continue as SF City will get to be the host for the first time as Burlingame travels north for the 3rd and final meeting between the two teams for this season on July 4th at Negoesco Stadium on the campus of the University of San Francisco. If these first two match ups were any indication, this rivalry is just getting started. Keep an eye out as it could become PDL’s best!