"Know Your Opponent" returns for the first time in 2016, just in time for the start of the U.S. Open Cup. Sacramento Gold FC is looking for the first Open Cup win in club history, but it won't come easy. Wednesday's opponent is a young, talented group chock full of major league prospects, collegiate stars, and international veterans. In the latest edition of “Know Your Opponent,” learn more about the Burlingame Dragons.
City: Burlingame, CA
Stadium: Dragons Stadium
Owner: Nick Swinmurn/David Ebersman
Head Coach: Eric Bucchere
Young in both its roster age and short time in existence, Burlingame Dragons FC has already made a name for itself as one of the premier lower division clubs in the country. Burlingame is a member of the Premier Development League (PDL), one of two leagues (NPSL) which make up the fourth tier of the American Soccer Pyramid. The Dragons play in the Central Pacific Division in the league's Western Conference, along with clubs in San Francisco, Fresno, and Las Vegas, as well as the Brigham Young University (BYU) men's club team. The club began as the San Jose Earthquakes U-23 squad, but relocated from Turlock to Burlingame and became the Dragons after the inaugural season of 2014.
The big move also meant the Dragons shifted form being owned by the Earthquakes to San Jose's PDL affiliate. As such, the club needed new ownership. The Dragons took advantage of the Peninsula's collection of companies and gave the keys to the club to Nick Swinmurn and David Ebersman. Swinmurn made a name for himself by founding the online shoe/clothing outlet Zappos.com and later becoming a minority investor in the NBA's Golden State Warriors. Ebersman, meanwhile, has held the position of Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for both Genetech (working there for 15 years) and Facebook (five years).
Burlingame also looked local in its search for a head coach and place to play. Former assistant Eric Bucchere succeeded Dana Taylor as head coach late last year, continuing his rise up the ranks. After four years playing at UC Santa Cruz, Bucchere rejoined the Banana Slugs bench as an assistant coach. He then moved to the same position at UC San Diego for five years before securing his first head coaching gig at Menlo College. As for home turf, the Dragons set up their stomping grounds at Burlingame High School. Located near Downtown Burlingame, Dragons Stadium has a capacity of over 4,000 spectators.
After barely missing the playoffs in 2014, the Dragons left no doubt in 2015. Playing in the Southwest Division, Burlingame finished 10-1-3, good enough to win the club's first division title. The Dragons made it all the way to the Western Conference Semifinals, where they were eliminated by the Seattle Sounders U-23 squad, the eventual conference champs. Burlingame also inherited the Earthquakes U-23 squad's place in the 2015 U.S. Open Cup. Despite leading late in the game, the Dragons gave up a stoppage time goal and were eliminated in extra time by a team well familiar to Gold fans: the Sonoma County Sol.
Looking to improve in both league and open play, the Dragons restocked and reloaded. In addition to more Earthquakes Academy prospects, players from the Orange County Blues, Carolina Railhawks, and Real Salt Lake Academies were brought into to Burlingame. The Dragons also sought and got the best from local universities, including CSU Stanislaus, Notre Dame De Namur, Cal and 2015 NCAA Division 1 Champion Stanford. Burlingame then went international, signing players from Canada, Panama, Brazil, Malaysia, Denmark, and New Zealand. All told, the Burlingame Dragons look primed for a successful 2016.
Josh Smith: The first captain in Burlingame history, Smith anchored a Dragons defense which recorded a stellar 0.76 goals against average and produced eight clean sheets in 2015. The German-born defender has suited up for the United States U-17 National Team, as well as Karlsruher SC's U-17 and U-19 Bundesliga Academy squads. At the University of San Francisco, Smith was an All-West Coast Conference Honorable Mention from 2012-2014, but suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Dons' third game of 2015. The big defender is also a big offensive threat, particularly on set pieces.
J.T. Marcinkowski: One of Burlingame's marquee signings this past offseason, Marcinkowski looks every bit a brick wall between the pipes. As a freshman at Georgetown University, Marcinkowski posted a 0.69 goals against average and recorded 63 saves, leading the Hoyas to a 16-2-3 record with nine shutouts. Marcinkowski was named to the First Team All-Big East and earned Big East Freshman of the Year Honors. In addition, Marcinkowski currently has a spot on the U.S. U-20 National Team roster, manning the net in a 0-0 draw with Kyoto Sanga FC and a 3-1 win over Sinergia Deportiva Tigres this past March.
Khalid Arramdani: If NPSL followers think they recognize Arramdani's name, they're not mistaken. The San Francisco/East Bay Stompers veteran also calls Burlingame home. The Moroccan-born forward tallied double-digit goals for the Stompers in the 2015season, earning a Mitre National Player of the Week honor in the process. After arriving at Burlingame later in the year, Arramdani continued his stupendous play, helping the Dragons seal the Southwest Division title. Arramdani possesses blazing speed and expert finesse, utilizing both to leave opponents in the dust.
2016 Season So Far:
Burlingame's 2016 season is only two games old, though it's off to as good a start as they could've hoped for. After the club went 5-2-1 in its extensive preseason campaign, the Dragons began the regular season with a short trip down Interstate 99. Despite being reduced to ten men, they still managed to top the Fresno Fuego 1-0 on a goal from Jamael Cox. Cox got another goal two days later against Los Angeles Laguna. Matt Wiesenfarth netted two and Manny Cazares scored a fourth as the Dragons won 4-0.
All-Time U.S. Open Cup Results:
Wednesday, May 13, 2015: Burlingame Dragons 1 @ Sonoma County Sol 2 (AET)
Recent Results and Upcoming Schedule:
Friday, May 6: Burlingame Dragons 1 @ Fresno Fuego 0
Sunday, May 8: Burlingame Dragons 4 @ Los Angeles Laguna 0
Saturday, May 21: Burlingame Dragons @ BYU Cougars, 7:30 p.m., South Field Stadium
Friday, May 27: Burlingame Dragons @ Las Vegas Mobsters, 7:30 p.m., Green Valley HS
Sunday, May 29: Burlingame Dragons @ Las Vegas Mobsters, 7:30 p.m., Green Valley HS
Three Things You (Probably) Didn't Know:
The farm system is already beginning to bear fruit. In January, former Burlingame midfielder Ty Thompson was selected in the fourth round (69th overall pick) of the 2016 MLS SuperDraft by the San Jose Earthquakes. Thompson, a part of Stanford's championship-winning team, was one of three Cardinal players selected in the draft. Ty, a Sacramento native, is the older brother of San Jose Earthquakes/Sacramento Republic FC midfielder Tommy Thompson. If family doesn't make him completely comfortable, he also has the support of former Stanford players and current Earthquakes/Republic members Adam Jahn and J.J. Koval.
Though they managed to beat Burlingame in last season's playoffs, the Sounders' U-23 squad did not win the championship. The honor went to K-W United FC, who topped the New York Red Bulls U-23 squad 4-3 in the title game. Had the Red Bulls managed to pull out a win, they would have completed a truly remarkable feat: win two straight titles in two different leagues. 2015 was New York's first year in the PDL, having moved over from the NPSL after winning the championship in 2014. In addition, both semifinals and the final were played at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, Washington, where the Gold beat the then-FC Tacoma 253 last May. The final score: 4-3.
The Dragons' lair at Burlingame High School has also been the home of several diverse Panther alumni. As far as athletics go, former Burlingame High students include Houston Astros starting pitcher Scott Feldman, former Chicago Fire member Matthew Fondy, U.S. Davis Cup tennis player Erik Van Dillen, and "Blazin'" Ben Eastman, a U.S. Track and Field Hall-of-Famer and one of three Americans to hold the world record in both the 400 and 800 meters. Other alumni include actress Dianna Agron, who played Quinn Fabray on Glee, cartoonist Bill Amend, best know for the comic strip FoxTrot, and actress Mary Crosby, the answer to the question "Who shot J.R.?"