Despite short notice the community of Turlock stepped up with an impressive showing for Wednesday night’s exhibition match between Major League Soccer’s San Jose Earthquakes and minor league affiliate Sacramento Republic FC.
An estimated 1,500 soccer fans nearly filled the 2,000 capacity California State University, Stanislaus Warrior Stadium to watch a fine match that was scoreless until the 85th minute, when Quakes forward Alan Gordon connected a header to midfielder JJ Koval who found the back of the net.
In the 91st minute Earthquakes forward Billy Schuler scorched a hot shot past the keeper for an unassisted goal, which created the final score 2-0 San Jose.
After a scheduling opportunity presented itself just weeks ago, CSU Stanislaus men’s soccer head coach Dana Taylor approached Earthquakes General Manager John Doyle about the possibility of playing a preseason match at the stadium. Taylor has a strong connection with the Earthquakes as several players, including Gordon, played for him when he coached at Oregon State from the late 1990s until he was hired by Stanislaus in 2009.
Doyle says the timing couldn’t have been any better since the Earthquakes recently announced that Turlock will be home to a U23 affiliate team with seven home games to be played at Warrior Stadium this summer. Doyle had high praise for the stadium.
“This is a beautiful facility with an excellent natural grass playing surface,” he said.
Doyle also mentioned that the Central Valley is becoming an area with a rapidly growing pool of soccer talent that the Earthquakes want to tap into, as well as to claim a larger fan base. To date, Doyle reports that more than 200 season tickets have been sold for the U23 team, which will play in the United Soccer Leagues Premier Developmental League.
“The team will give a lot of talent exposure and opportunity to get noticed,” he said.
Turlock Mayor John Lazar was overjoyed with the exhibition game and the flowering partnership between the city, CSU Stanislaus and the Earthquakes.
“This game is a wonderful opportunity for Turlock. It fits right into the Turlock community and what people like here. I’m a huge soccer fan so this is a lot of fun,” he said.
While the stadium was largely filled with Earthquakes faithful, there was a small but incredibly vocal cheering section for the Sacramento Republic FC, which was playing in its first ever contest. The contingent of 40 to 50 fans, most of whom took a fan bus from Sacramento, kept up a raucous decibel level throughout much of the game.
Republic FC will play in the USL Pro Soccer League and serve as the equivalent to a “triple A” team for the Earthquakes. Throughout the MLS season the Earthquakes will loan up to five players to Republic FC in order to provide more playing time for players who may not be getting enough time on the pitch in MLS.
All in all, the event can be fairly labeled as a success for soccer in the Turlock area and the Central Valley.
“This crowd shows the commitment the Turlock community has for seeing professional soccer. I hope the Earthquakes come back next year,” said Taylor.