Joey Balleweg, Intern
– Southern California sports fans are enjoying seeing some of their favorite teams begin their new seasons. While large market teams often steal the headlines and attention of avid sports fans, not much is said about equally impacted small market teams. One such team is Temecula FC who represents southwest Riverside County on the soccer field.
Three games into the National Premier Soccer League season, Temecula FC’s competitive year was over due to the coronavirus pandemic. There were no trophies to hand out, no players to promote and no fans in the stands.
Kenneth Farewell, the chairman of the NPSL, decided to cancel the 2020 season in late March with hopes of resuming in 2021.
“It was unfortunate,” Brandon Jantz, owner of Temecula FC, said. “We had strengthened our squad (for the 2020 season), making it one of the best we have ever had.”
The timing of the cancellation put the club in a tough position because much of the team’s expenses had already been consumed to support players.
Temecula FC captain, Ryan Brent said, “I felt we had a good chance to make the playoffs. We had just brought in a couple really nice players that I thought would have brought everything together.”
Jantz had two choices left, he said, either let the team go or stand by the club through the difficulties and unknowns of the coronavirus.
“This club is much more than a business to me; it is my passion,” he said.
Jantz said he has tried to make the most of the situation by looking within the organization to see how they can improve themselves from executives, to staff and down to the players on the field.
“We have been looking back into what we need to improve in, like areas in the community we can help out in once things get lifted,” Jantz said.
As for Brent, he said it is a great time for players who want to go to the next level to work on their skills.
“You have to have a mentality that the more you work now it will pay off in the future” he said. “I know a lot of our players are working hard.”
One of the club’s main priorities has been improving their player development.
Jantz said, “The system here in the U.S. is flawed and broken.” With the time off, the team has been working with their European contacts to better implement a European model, which includes trying to make club fees as low as possible and hiring highly touted youth coaches for their player development program.
As for the players currently on the Temecula FC roster, Jantz keeps in contact with them weekly and voiced their devastation for the canceled season.
“These are all aspiring professionals looking to make it to the top, and there just isn’t much we can do as a club,” he said.
Brent said, “As captain, I try to reach out to everyone at least once a month to hear how they are doing.”
Many of the other NPSL teams in the Southern California area have shut down for the time being due to the pandemic, leaving no clubs for Temecula FC to play. The team did have a two-week training session in late June to work on the team’s fitness and touch, but since then they have shut down all soccer operations in light of the surge in positive COVID-19 cases in Riverside County.
Brent said, “I try to train with some of the guys as much as I can, but there’s only so much you can do when you have no games to play.”
“We really have been focusing on the inside, what can we do to better ourselves so we can hit the ground running when this thing is over,” Jantz said.
The next competition for Temecula FC soccer could be in early December in the Riverside Cup, when the club hopes to host a game against one of their Southern California teams. As for the NPSL, Jantz said he will be heading to Pennsylvania in September along with other board members to discuss the plan for the 2021 season.
It was not the year Temecula FC expected, but Jantz said, Temecula FC “looks forward to working hard to grow in the community and to put together a team our community can be proud of.”
Joey Balleweg can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.