The inaugural 101 Derby between the Bay Area’s two professional soccer teams will debut in its first competitive match on Wednesday, June 14th, in round 4 of the US Open Cup. The game will take place at the San Jose Earthquakes’ new gem of a home field, Avaya Stadium.
The match-up is starting to be referred to as the 101 Derby, as the quickest way between the Bay Area’s two largest cities is via the US-101 freeway, which almost directly links the two stadiums, Kezar and Avaya. The two cities are the 10th and 13th largest cities in the United States, and they are less than an hour drive apart.
A possible match-up with a MLS Club has been on the Deltas radar since the Club’s founding. “ [One of our] objective[s] set by our roster was to get into a round of the US Open Cup that would allow us to play a MLS team, and for that you need to win two rounds, and we were able to achieve that goal,” said Deltas’ Head Coach, Marc Dos Santos, following training last week.
The Deltas began their inaugural Open Cup campaign with a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over local PDL side and San Jose affiliate, the Burlingame Dragons, before they traveled to Phoenix to play Phoenix Rising FC and won again by the score of 2-1 off of a late Tommy Heinemann winner in stoppage time. Dos Santos said about the Phoenix win: “I speak a lot about a winning mentality here. It’s been honest. The guys never give up. They believe we can get points in every game and that we can win every game… It wasn’t a surprise, the reaction we had in Phoenix.”
Going into the Phoenix game, the Deltas knew that if they were to win, they would get to face their local MLS rival in their new stadium. The current Deltas’ Captain, Nana Attakora, previously played for San Jose in 2011 and 2013, and is very much looking forward to the match as he enjoyed his time in San Jose. “It was a good time. It was tough with injuries. I had a real bad concussion, but the team is great. The staff is great. I got to work under Frank Yallop, so it was fun. I had a lot of fun in San Jose. I love the Bay Area, so other than the injuries, I have nothing bad to say about my time there.”
Attakora also spoke on his relationship with some of his old Earthquakes teammates as well as his thoughts on playing in Avaya for the first time. “Simon Dawkins and Shea Salinas, I’ve kept in contact with both of them ever since my time there. I actually saw Shea Salinas about two weeks ago, so it will be fun to play against them.” As for the Earthquakes new stadium, the Deltas’ Captain said: “I got to see the outlines of the stadium when I was there, but unfortunately I was gone when it was built, but it’s a world class facility.”
Marc Dos Santos also had nothing but praise for the Earthquakes as a club. “We are going to face a team that has a lot of history, MLS champions in previous years, a great organization, a great Club with great facilities, and good environment, and an incredible stadium for our guys to play in.” He then went on to talk very positively about his opposing coach, Dominic Kaneer, and the Quakes’ Captain, Chris Wondolowski, saying: “Dominic Kanear is a coach that has a lot of experience. He was absolutely fantastic in Houston.” And on Wondolowski, he said: “You don’t need too much presentation or marketing when you speak about a guy like Wondolowski. He is a US international and one of the top forwards in the MLS, frequently called for the US national team. He has a lot of experience, and is a guy that we are going to have to be very aware of.”
The SF Deltas come into this match after a long away trip to play Puerto Rico over the weekend where they picked up the 3-0 victory, while the Earthquakes are coming off of a bye week. Their last game was more than a week ago against the Portland Timbers. When asked about squad rotation, Marc Dos Santo said: “We will have the best team possible on the field against San Jose and against Puerto Rico, so it’s all going to depend on how the guys feel after the Puerto Rico game, how the recovery goes.”
The Open Cup is something that the Deltas’ boss has great respect for, saying: “I think that I respect a lot the fact that it’s a competition that’s done with pretty much giving a chance to all the clubs in the United States. There’s good history when it comes to surprises, as you see Christos being still in it… What happens in the Open Cup deserves our full respect, and our full respect is us taking every game seriously.”
Both the Head Coach and the Captain emphasized the importance of this match. Captain Nana Attakora said: “I think it will be good for us as a first year club, and for our fans. You know it’s going to be like they said, a Derby Game.” Marc Dos Santos echoed the sentiment on the importance of the game, but he didn’t feel that there was a rivalry that would help add to the importance of the game. “If you are asking me this question, not for me [it is not a derby]. For me, it seems like another very important game.” He went on to say: “I see [this match as] a great opportunity. It would have been the same thing, the same excitement, the same level of preparation if we would play Portland or if we would play Sporting Kansas City, or Orlando City. It’s a chance of playing a MLS team. I understand that because of the proximity of the two cities and the history of the two cities, people are going to want to make it a big event. I understand that.”
The Deltas have high expectations heading into this match and are fully expecting to win the game, with Marc Dos Santos finishing by saying: “We have dreams of the Cup, and we want to give our best all the way.”