Dragons Defeat SF City FC 2-1 In Derby Match

PHOTO: Lyndsay Radnedge, Center Line Soccer

With the USL-PDL season well under way, the Burlingame Dragons defeated local rivals SF City FC 2-1 at home Friday night in front of a crowd of 1,500. The result brings them to 2nd in the Central Pacific division and 6th in the Western Conference overall.

In the 17th minute, the scoring was opened when striker Danny Musovski drew a penalty and midfielder Jamael Cox stepped up with an emphatic conversion. In the 40th, the duo switched roles as Cox played in a cross and Musovski rose up to bury the header, and the hosts went into the break with a clear upper hand, having dominated the run of play.

The second half started as more of a slog, however, with the referee allowing for a fairly physical game. The visitors struck back in the 55th minute with a cross whipped into the pocket of space between center-backs Josh Morton and Josh Smith for an easy headed goal.

After that, the Dragons defense solidified itself but the play in possession lost its early verve until the introduction of Amir Bashti. The Stanford sophomore set up in a central playmaking role late on and brought a bit more threat to the attack as the Dragons began to break forward once again. From there, they managed to see out the whistle with almost no threat on their own net, with a few decent looks going forward.

Dragons coach Eric Bucchere was pleased with the match, calling the performance intelligent, competitive, and evidencing requisite attention to detail. Since it’s a local rivalry, it’s tempting to call it a Derby match, and according to Bucchere, it lived up to that name despite the short lifetime of the club due to personal rivalries.

“It feels like a Derby because these guys all play together [in college],” referencing the fact that Stanford, Cal, and USF, amongst others, could boast players on both sides of the match.

Bucchere commended Musovski, who has emerged as an early star for the side, for having settled in with his teammates despite training with them just once a week as he goes on trial regularly with various MLS clubs, hoping to catch on. He also singled out Cox for praise, saying the midfielder was a stalwart who brought leadership and experience as a former pro who wants to earn his way back into those ranks.

San Jose Earthquakes Points of Interest

For Quakes fans, this Burlingame side serves as the senior team’s U-23 amateur affiliate, allowing former academy products a place to train in the summer and preserve their homegrown eligibility. As such, many San Jose fans show up specifically to root on potential homegrown singings, including Bashti, Morton, and goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski. The latter missed out on this match while on U-20 national team duty for the US, but Bucchere stated that he thinks all three have definite pro potential.

Morton, who had played some games out of position at full-back lately, returned to his natural center-back spot for this one and looked composed. He fits the center-back profile fairly naturally, if a shade undersized, but his standout trait is eye-catching distribution out of the back. That was fully on display Friday night, as he hit a few long switching passes that really opened up the opposing defense. Although the lone conceded goal did come in the air between him and his center back partner, my naked-eye observation was that it was not played to Morton’s side and that it would’ve been difficult for him to intervene. Without the benefit of film review, however, I wouldn’t feel confident commenting on his positioning, but it seemed reasonable on first glance.

With that skill set, the natural comparison on the Quakes is Clarence Goodson, but I actually think he’d be more like a skinny version of the Belgian Toby Alderweireld. A junior at Cal, Morton has two years of starting experience already under his belt, and I could see him earning a homegrown contract in the next year or two if he puts in a dominant collegiate season and continues to add bulk.

Bashti, who played this game with a protective mask after suffering a broken nose in prior PDL play, instantly brought spark to the game. His deft touch and small frame will remind Quakes fans of Tommy Thompson, but he has a suddenness to his movements and an attacking vision that is uniquely his own. In the 83rd minute, he juked a defender clean out of his shoes without so much as slowing down as he blew past him. A few minutes before that, he settled a ball played over his shoulder with his left foot without breaking stride. Although he saw limited playing time as a freshman for Stanford en route to their National Championship, as a bit of a square peg in the round hole of coach Jeremey Gunn’s system, he’s an electrifying player who I have no doubt will be offered a homegrown contract in a few years on his current trajectory.

While Marcinkowski was not on show on the night, he is universally regarded as a future pro, with Top Drawer Soccer going so far as to name him the top unsigned goalkeeper in the country. He’s the total package for a keeper, with good size, solid athleticism, great distribution, and a cool head as the marshall of a defense. Comparisons to David Bingham are inevitable, and in my opinion, fair.

His path to the Quakes first team is fuzzier partially because he still has three more years at Georgetown to get his degree, the Quakes already have three very solid keepers on a collectively favorable salary situation, and perhaps most importantly, he’s good enough that he might get looks from Europe. Stay tuned on this one, but he’s one the Quakes will be fighting to make sure he doesn’t get away. It’s really more a matter of when.

One wildcard is Nick Lima, the senior fullback at Cal, who did spend some time in the Earthquakes academy but is not a clear-cut case to be homegrown eligible under MLS rules. He’s predominantly a right-back, but played left-back tonight, and acquitted himself well despite what Bucchere characterized as a narrow pitch, which ordinarily limits wide players going forward.

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