Ramirez Early Header Propels 1904 FC to Win Inaugural Debut Over Cal United Strikers
The beginning of a great rivalry between San Diego and Orange County starts as new pro league NISA Showcase rolls out. 1904 FC Host California United Strikers in their inaugural home opener.
Two new professional soccer teams faced off against each other for the first time in a surprisingly high-quality soccer match.
San Diego’s new professional soccer team 1904 FC hosted Orange County rival California United Strikers at SDCCU Stadium in front of 2,838 often screaming soccer fans — and it was an amazing kick-off.
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1904 FC won their opening match with a final score of 3-1.
San Diego fans loved it, cheering until the final whistle was blown — and a vibrant supporters group came to life.
It was a great night for many first-time experiences. From the first-ever pro game for the 1904 FC squad to several players’ first professional game ever and the first time scoring a goal or earning an assist in a professional game, — this match was a new beginning.
It was exciting soccer.
For all soccer fans who believed third-tier soccer in America is flat and populated by players whose dreams should have been extinguished — this match was a real awakening.
Game Recap: 1904 FC defeated California United Strikers 3-1 in front of a cheering squad of fans.
The match was action-packed from the start. 1904 FC opened the scoring first.
Lorenzo “Tito” Ramirez, Jr. scored an amazing header that sliced past the California United Strikers’ defense in the 11’ minute off of a perfect curling cross from Ernesto ‘Moe’ Espinoza.
Ramirez and Espinoza both trained in Southern California at the Tijuana Xolos Academy. Together, they made San Diego history — earning the first goal in 1904’s history.
Although down a goal, California United Strikers were unfazed by the opposition scoring first and came back quickly with a strong, MLS-quality play in the 25th minute when Omar Sanchez scored on a pass from Miguel Sanchez Rincon, Jr.
As a youth player, Sanchez played for Santa Rosa United — and this was his first professional goal.
As a youth player, Rincon played for Chivas Academy — this was also Rincon’s first professional assist.
At half time, the game was tied 1-1 but 1904 took over the second half with determination.
San Diego raised, and English born 1904 FC rookie Billy Garton scored a decisive goal when he converted a penalty kick in the 52nd minute. This was Garton’s first professional goal.
Just a few minutes later, Ramirez scored again, sealing the 3-1 victory for 1904 FC.
California United Strikers repeatedly attacked in an attempt to equalize. With waves of offensive pressure, California United Strikers hit back, looking to rebound, but were unable to find the back of the net protected by 1904’s powerful goalkeeper Jean Antoinne.
California United Strikers Defender Christopher Klute said the moment he wished he could change was when 1904 scored their first goal. “1904 had momentum after that and it kind of set the pace for them. We tied it up — which was good, but then we gave them two easy ones after that.”
California United Strikers Captain Xavier Fuerte agreed and said, “We played well but we just couldn’t finish. It was a good game, a good atmosphere here. It is an honor to play here in this stadium and to make history with San Diego.”
Soccer fans may remember Real Madrid‘s Cristiano Ronaldo scoring in this very same stadium — and so have many other legends.
“The NISA league is awesome.”Xavier Fuerte, California United Strikers Captain
The new NISA league is providing opportunities for many players to become professionals for the first time and Hawaii-native Fuerte is one of the talented players who has seized this chance to make his dream a reality. California United Strikers’ Duncan Capriotti is another first time pro just hitting the pitch since NISA launched.
An estimated 40% of NISA’s players on the two Southern California teams are on their journey from dreaming the dream to living the dream.
1904’s Milo Barton is also one of these new pros. His first-ever professional match was also 1904’s debut and he made a strong impact on the game.
Son of Warren Barton — former defender for the England National Team with 500 senior-level appearances for EPL teams and now a soccer studio analyst for FOX Sports, young Barton had dreamed of this moment for as long as he could remember.
“I’m very proud of Milo and he’s worked so hard for this — and, he’s a better player than I was.Warren Barton, former defender for the England National Team and soccer studio analyst for FOX Sports
1904’s head coach Alex Gontran was proud and said, “I’m so very proud of our players and so many are new. They have worked hard in a short time. It is great, and I want to thank the fans, the atmosphere was incredible.”
Another 1904 player who is new to the pro scene is goal-scoring Garton. Also from a soccer family, Garton has just returned from a year in England where he nearly signed with QPR. His father, Billy Garton, Sr., was a successful defender for EPL’s Manchester United and now coaches for San Diego Surf SC.
“I remember how I felt after my first home game as a professional playing at Old Trafford, and it was a wonderful feeling, especially if you win,” said Billy Garton, Sr. “I am incredibly proud of Billy. It was a fantastic night — for all the players, the city of San Diego and it’s soccer journey.”
California United Strikers’ head coach Don Ebert understands what it is like for a new pro to score his first goal and said, “It was nice to Omar Nuño score his first goal, it is always a relief for every striker to see that first one hit the back of the net.”
This could be the start of a fierce San Diego and Orange County Derby. When the match between the California United Strikers and 1904 FC match at SDCCU Stadium was over, the real winner was the beautiful game and the fans.
“The skill level was quite impressive and I thought San Diego was the better team. 1904 put away their chances and we did have chances — we didn’t convert,” said Michael Collins, California United Strikers’ president and GM.
Although it was a disappointing defeat for California United Strikers, they look to rebound in their home opener next Sunday, September 22nd at 4 PM at the Championship Stadium in Orange County Great Park.
“For some of the Cal United Strikers’ players, this was their second professional game ever, and they have never played at home — we are expecting a very electric crowd for our home opener,” said Collins who hopes soccer fans continue to cheer for NISA’s clubs all season.
“The soccer fans of San Diego showed up for the inaugural match for 1904 FC and the players put on a great show,” said Montele Graves who was the announcer. “Our players are technical and played an attractive style of soccer, which was a joy to watch.”
1904 Roster: Jean Antoine, Dallin Cutler, Ozzie Ramos, Josiah Benjamin (Alexis Velela 64′), Eder Arreola (Milo Barton 70′), Felipe Liborio, Christian Enriquez (Brandon Zambrano, 79′), Billy Garton (Jorge Taylor 89′), Nelson Blanco, Lorenzo Ramirez (Adonis Amaya 84′), Ernesto Espinoza, Marcus Norris, Hanif Wright.
California United Strikers Roster: Kifi Cabrera, Gonzalo Salguero, Juan Pablo Ocegueda, Xavier Fuerte, Duncan Capriotti, Omar Nuño (Andy Contreras ’64), Abraham Villon, Miguel Sanchez-Rincon (Michael Bryant ’79), Evan Waldrep (Gustavo Villalobos 45’), Kevin Jeon (Christian Thierjung ’45), Chris Klute.
Next Up: California United Strikers FC host LA Force in their Home Opener on Sunday, September 22 at 4 PM at the Championship Stadium at OC Great Park. Click for Ticket Information– Tickets are $10 for General Admission and $5 for Youth