In the latest edition of the Soccer Nation Sitdown, Nate Abaurrea is joined by Daniel Gamba, the General Manager of the Southern California Sports Club, commonly referred to as So Cal SC. In addition to his role as GM, Gamba has assumed various other duties for the San Bernardino based club, from assistant coach to community ambassador.
In part one of the sitdown, Abaurrea and Gamba discuss a range of interesting topics, from the club’s heavy emphasis on player development to the learning experiences of So Cal SC’s first season in the National Premier Soccer League.
Nate Abaurrea: Daniel, thanks for joining us. First off, as we’ are almost a month into a new year, how are things going up in San Bernardino with So Cal SC?
Daniel Gamba: It’s great to be with you, Nate. Thanks for having me. We are looking at and focusing on quite a few different things at the moment. Over the course of the next month, there will be at least five or six major announcements from our club. Right now, we are all about developing soccer in the Inland Empire. We will have a major sponsor announcement to make. We have some big steps with our coaching staff. There is a new venue in the works for our senior team. There is a lot of exciting stuff going on.
In relation to the upcoming 2017 season in the NPSL, I know we are all very anxious to see the league schedule, which is very close to being released by the league office. Our entire infrastructure is getting stronger. Some things still need to be finalized before they go public, but stay tuned. I promise you that there are some incredibly exciting things on the horizon for So Cal SC.
Nate Abaurrea: You brought up the 2017 NPSL season. What would you say you are most looking forward to in regard to this upcoming NPSL campaign?
Daniel Gamba: I think, first of all, I’m looking forward to the growth and strengthening of the league as a whole, and our Southwest Conference in particular. From last year to this year, the nationwide league and our conference have grown so much. Specifically with the conference, there are some fantastic teams coming in, and the schedule will be enhanced quite a bit.
There are also some new ownership groups coming in, people who are hungry and have a stable base from which to work. Considering that the NPSL is known by most as an amateur league, what these new owners and new teams are bringing in is such a blessing. They are bringing in a professional style, and making sure that we are known as a professional culture in our league. I for one am very happy with the direction of the league.
For the club itself, I’m looking forward to continuing our work, and keeping our expectations from last year. We must always be getting better. We must always be improving ourselves in all facets of the game, on and off the field. Again, there are some really good teams joining our league and our Southwest conference, along with the clubs who are coming back. We know they are all getting better as well, so therefore we need to keep improving, keep stepping our game up everyday.
Something else that I’m really excited about for this season is that about 80% of our team from last year will be resigned and playing with us again here in 2017. That is such a great foundation to have. We started basically from scratch last year. I think we will be in a much better position this year.
Nate Abaurrea: How do you hope to build off of last year?
Daniel Gamba: Nate, you have seen our style of play. You have heard all about what we preach with this club. It is something that is very important to us. We like to think that our style is very unique, though I also hope that it’s something more teams adopt and embrace in this country.
People who understand the game of soccer, the varying styles and tactics within, they could see last year that we had a very organized team. We played legit soccer, total football. Every guy on that field must be a complete player.
We have a philosophy with this club that is very important to us. It is all about how we develop players and how we help them succeed on the field. That’s our goal, number one, staying with that philosophy. With the core we are bringing back this season, we will continue to be a much younger team than most of our competition. Make no mistake, we want to win the NPSL, of course. We want to win every game, make the playoffs, and win the whole thing. But our main goal at this club is developing players. We want these guys to get contracts at higher levels.
Our average age last year was 19.66, making us one of the youngest teams in the whole country. We had 16 and 17 year-olds who suited up for us and gave their all. They were playing against much more mature and experienced soccer players, often grown men in their late 20’s and early 30’s. Even for our core of 19-20 year old players, that is such a blessing to be going against guys who are more experienced. It forces you to learn and helps you grow. That’s what we want for our players.
Nate Abaurrea: Watching your club get ready for a second season, I can’t help but think back to the heartbreak of last year. I watched So Cal SC extensively last year, and was privileged to call a couple of your matches as well. You guys had as much bad luck as any team I’ve ever seen, all while playing without a doubt some of the most attractive and solid soccer in the entire Southwest Conference.
You guys got hot at the right time, and streaked into the playoffs, only to lose one of the most agonizing playoff affairs imaginable, on the road against eventual national quarter-finalists Albion Pros of San Diego. Your team should have won that game in regulation. Even at 1-1 and into penalties, it was yours for the taking, and it was cruel and unjust the way you guys lost it in the end. You and I have spoken about that game quite a bit, but how much do you want your players, especially the younger guys, to think about last year, and that playoff match in particular?
Daniel Gamba: That is a really good question, and an important one. What I like to tell our guys is that we have to look at things from the past to learn from our mistakes. If the outcome wasn’t what you wanted, then you have to do things differently. For you as a writer and a broadcaster who covers the games, or for your colleagues, or for someone like Jared Sagal, the fantastic filmmaker who featured the highlights from that game in the “Alive and Kicking” documentary about our club, you can all look back and analyze every play and every bounce. It is natural for you to do that. It is different for us.
We absolutely should look at the past to help us be better in the future. But we can’t just look back and cry about what almost was, or complain about bad calls, unlucky breaks, ridiculous goals… We must ask ourselves how we become more aware. How do we become more aware of these situations, and in turn prevent the bad breaks from happening? How do we improve? If you’re not happy with that result from last summer, what can YOU do differently to make a better outcome? Let’s go to the next chapter. That is what I tell our players. Let’s do things differently in 2017.