It was an exciting year in the Southwest Division, with a tightly contested battle atop the standings.
Ultimately, it was FC Golden State Force that prevailed, emerging as division champions following a fantastic 10-1-3 campaign. Following closely behind were the Fresno Fuego, who finished with a strong 10-2-2 record.
The two leaders were followed up by the Southern California Surf, San Francisco City FC, the Burlingame Dragons FC, the Southern California Seahorses, the San Diego Zest FC, the Ventura County Fusion, and Orange County SC U23.
Here's a closer look at the Southwest Division's Season in Review.
Photo by Burlingame Dragons FC
Record: 5-5-4, -1 GD
Southwest Division Finish: 5th
MVP: Matthew Wiesenfarth - 13 goals
The Burlingame Dragons FC toed the center-line in almost every way in 2017. They finished in the dead center of the Southwest Division in 5th place, with an almost-even 5-5-4 record and an almost-even -1 goal differential. Their season was a series of streaks, ultimately balancing out for a middle-of-the-road effort this season. After opening with a three-match winless streak, the Dragons won two straight by a 7-0 combined margin, but ultimately fell off again with a six-match winless streak immediately afterwards. They closed out the season strong, however, as three consecutive victories brought an end to their campaign, which had many positives to take away. The Fresno Fuego were the only team to beat the Dragons twice, and twice they tied the division-winning FC Golden State Force. Leading the way in a big way was Matthew Wiesenfarth, who scored a fantastic 13 goals in 11 games, tied for second in the entire PDL. That performance earned him a professional move, as Wiesenfarth signed a pro deal with the USL’s Sacramento Republic in mid-August. In goal, the trio of Nicolas Corti, Remi Prieur and Mitchell North were impressive, surrendering just 18 goals in their 1,215 minutes in net, leaving the Dragons with plenty of good to take away from their 2017 campaign.
Photo by FC Golden State Force
Record: 10-1-3, +28 GD
Southwest Division Finish: 1st
Playoffs: Lost in PDL Championship Semifinals
MVP: Mark Verso - 13 goals, 5 assists
There haven’t been many seasons as good as the one enjoyed by the FC Golden State Force in 2017. After starting the season with a perfect 5-0-0 record in May, the team continued their unbeaten success deep into June, not losing a match until over halfway through the season on June 25. The Force then promptly won three of their last four and rode that 10-1-3 record to the Southwest Division crown. In the playoffs, the Force dispatched the Portland Timbers U23 and Fresno Fuego to earn the Western Conference crown, before finally falling in the PDL Championship semifinals to the Thunder Bay Chill in a tightly-fought showdown. Leading the way for the dragons was Mark Verso, who appeared in 13 matches and scored 13 goals, tied for second in the PDL, and assisted another five. He was helped out offensively by huge production from Pedro Ferreira Fonseca, with nine goals and five assists, and Jose Carrera-Garcia, with six goals and two assists. Equally as impressive in goal were Jose Miranda and Aaron Perez, who combined to allow just 17 goals in 1,100 minutes, good for a very respectable 1.39 GAA. It doesn’t get a whole lot better than the Force’s 2017 campaign.
Photo by Fresno Fuego
Record: 10-2-2, +26 GD
Southwest Division Finish: 2nd
Playoffs: Lost in Western Conference Finals
MVP: Jose Cuevas - 11 goals, 6 assists
If the FC Golden State Force’s season was as about good as it gets, the Fresno Fuego came inches away from having an even better year. After beginning the season with a three-match win streak, the Fuego closed out their first six contests with a 4-2-0 record. They wouldn’t lose again for the rest of the season, as the Fuego would promptly go on a six-match winning streak before drawing their last two matches. In their lone contest against the Force, a compelling six-goal draw, the Fuego came just short of snatching the division crown away for themselves, as a win would’ve secured them the title. In the playoffs, the Fuego took down FC Tucson in the Western Conference Semifinals before falling to the Force in the Finals to end their season. The Fuego’s 45 goals equaled the Force’s, with Jose Cuevas contributing a team-leading 11 goals and adding six assists as well. Also contributing greatly were Renato Bustamante with eight goals and seven assists, Joey Chica with six goals and one assist, and Milton Blanco with three goals and four assists. Agustin Rey was a rock in goal, allowing just 17 goals in 14 matches, with a fantastic 1.27 GAA.
Photo by Orange County SC U23
Record: 1-12-1, -30 GD
Southwest Division Finish: 9th
MVP: Alejandro Sanchez - 2 goals, 2 assists
Contrary to the Force and Fuego, 2017 proved to be a difficult year for Orange County SC U23, who brought up the rear in the Southwest Division. It took Orange County until June 14 to win their its first match of the season, a 1-0 victory over the Southern California Surf, but it proved to be their only win this year. Aside from that result, a lone draw against the Southern California Seahorses on May 24 was the only additional point the team was able to earn, leaving them with just four on the year. Orange County finished with nine goals scored and 39 goals allowed, last in the division in both categories, and had an insurmountable -30 goal differential. One of the bright spots for the team was Alejandro Sanchez, who was in the top five in minutes played for OCSC U23, scoring two goals and assisting two others to contribute to nearly half of the team’s nine scoring efforts. Brian Peek, with three goals, and Shinya Kadono, with two goals and an assist, also contributed offensive. In goal, Patrick Harding and Michael Suchy split time evenly, six matches each, but struggled with a 2.78 GAA.
Photo by San Diego Zest FC
Record: 3-9-2, -16 GD
Southwest Division Finish: 7th
MVP: Nico Tagaloa - 4 goals
While the San Diego Zest FC endured a difficult season, finishing 7th in the Southwest Division, it didn’t begin that way. The Zest alternated wins and losses in their first five matches of the season, leaving them with a respectable 3-2-0 record to start the year. It was all downhill from there, however, as they would go winless in their next nine with an 0-7-2 record, including four straight losses to end the season. Offensively, the Zest struggled, scoring just thirteen goals, second-lowest in the division, and defensively weren’t much better, surrendering 29 for third-worst in the Southwest. Offensively, most of the Zest’s production came from Nico Tagaloa, with four goals, and Garrett Heine, with three goals. Shinya Omata lead the team in assists with three, while Patrick McGrath contributed on both sides, with two goals and an assist to his name. In goal, the trio of Rodrigo Sarmiento, Ryan Buckingham, and Sean Williams had a tough time, though Sarmiento put up an impressive 72.9 save percentage.
Photo by San Francisco City FC
Record: 8-5-1, +1 GD
Southwest Division Finish: 4th
MVP: Daniel Kirkland - 7 goals, 4 assists
San Francisco City FC was one of four teams in the Southwest Division to finish with a winning record, ending the season at an impressive 8-5-1 and finishing fourth, just behind the Southern California Surf on goal differential. Offensively SF City FC was impressive, with their 25 total goals good for third behind the Force and Fuego, while they struggled slightly on the defensive end with 24 goals allowed. After opening the season at a middling 1-2-1, SF City FC rallied in a big way to win six of their next seven and boost themselves back into the division’s upper echelon. Amid those six wins were victories over the Force and Fuego, leaving SF City FC as the only team to earn victories over both of the top two teams. They’d close out the season with only one win in their final three, but it was an impressive one as they dispatched Orange County SC U23 by a 6-2 score, their biggest margin of the year. Leading the way offensively was Daniel Kirkland, with seven goals and four assists, helped out by Davi Ramos’ five goals and two assists and Bryce Kaminski’s four goals and two assists. In goal, Kienan Weekes was largely solid, putting up a 1.57 GAA, supplemented by Alex Clewis and Taylor Bailey picking up the remaining work.
Photo by Southern California Seahorses
Record: 5-7-2, -7 GD
Southwest Division Finish: 6th
MVP: T.J. Ifaturoti - 5 goals
The Southern California Seahorses season was one that fringed on a .500 record but would ultimately fall just short of that mark. The team would end up with a 5-7-1 record, finishing in sixth place in the division. While their goals allowed mark was similar to teams that finished above them, their goals scored was where they found themselves lagging behind, with just 17 on the season. Their goal-scoring struggles were on display as the Seahorses lost their first two matches without finding the back of the net, and would ultimately be shut out six times in 2017. The high-point of the season for the Seahorses would be a two-match winning streak in mid-June, followed by winning two of their last three to close the year, leaving several positives to take into 2018. Offensively, the team was led by T.J. Ifaturoti with five goals on the season, followed closely by Joey O’Keefe’s three goals and one assist. In goal, Daniel Christensen was strong, only allowing 12 goals in his time in net, good for a 1.71 GAA, but second keeper Vincent Morales struggled, allowing a 2.75 GAA in his five matches.
Photo by Southern California Surf
Record: 8-5-1, +7 GD
Southwest Division Finish: 3rd
MVP: Adam Vargas - 4 goals, 4 assists
The Southern California Surf had a very good 2017, but found themselves outdone by incredible seasons from the Force and Fuego and wound up at third in the Southwest Division. After splitting their first four matches with a 2-2-0 record, the Surf wound up as winners of their next three straight, including a 2-1 victory over the Fuego. However, a four-match winless streak immediately afterwards kept the Surf from competing for the division crown, as they went 0-3-1 in a stretch that included losses to both the Force and Fuego. They did pick things back up before the end of the year, however, winning their last three by a combined 10-1 margin. Offensively, the Surf struggled a bit with 22 goals scored, but defensively only gave up a division-best 15 goals. Six of the team’s eight wins came via shut-out, hammering home what was a very impressive back-end showing for the Surf. A huge part of that came in goal, as Adam Allmaras allowed only eight goals in 10 matches in net for an astounding 0.81 GAA. Offensively, Adam Vargas contributed greatly, with four goals and four assists, helped out by another five goals from Nelson Pizarro.
Photo by Ventura County Fusion
Record: 2-8-4, -11 GD
Southwest Division Finish: 8th
MVP: Niklas Korber - 8 goals, 2 assists
While finishing above Orange County SC U23 to avoid a ninth place result, the 2017 season remained difficult for the Ventura County Fusion. After dropping their opening match against SF City FC, the Fusion bounced back nicely with a 2-0 shutout victory over the Seahorses in their second contest. Unfortunately, the team would follow that up with seven straight winless, including a five-match losing skid that saw them sent to the lower-half of the division standings. They’d grab their second and last win of the season against the Burlingame Dragons FC on June 17 before going winless over their last four matches to seal a 2-8-4 season. Offensively, they were better than their record indicated, with their 23 goals good for fourth in the division. But defensively the team struggled, with their 34 goals allowed only topped by Orange County SC U23, as their sole shutout was that earlier win over the Seahorses. That didn’t stop Niklas Korber from producing a positive season, however, as he produced eight goals and two assists for the Fusion. Also producing well were Joseph Ammer and Quentin Anson with three goals apiece. In goal, the team struggled as Eric Kam and Edward Delgado saw most of the time in net and allowed 11 goals apiece in six games each.