The Players Who Paved The Way - Part Five

    We Salute Our Friend & Amazing Teammate...Carlos Ballesteros

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As the summer pushes into late August, preparations begin for the new season as players
head to the startup of preseason training. It is an arduous process as it will push everyone
to the limit with work on basic fundamentals, wind sprints, long distance runs, and 
repetitive drills and exercises along with many small sided games to get everyone into 
game shape. It is not something that all the players really look forward to or enjoy as the
required work begins......unless the group is led by that one teammate who embraces the
process, brings the energy & ethusiasm, leads by example, and goes at full speed in every
training session, doing so with a huge smile on his face and enjoying every moment like a
little kid. We can only be talking about The Maestro of SSFAC....... Carlos Ballesteros

Carlos 1_2.PNG

With the 2014-15 season in the rear view mirror, SSFAC was looking to improve on a year
which saw them finish at 7-13-1. They were also looking for some much needed help from
the forward position as they were losing their top two goal scorers who had moved away.
The search was on to find an impact player who could fill the void. When trainig sessions
began in August of 2015, the team was looking at numerous players who had come out for
a trial in an effort to make the squad. It turned out to be a very competitive group of 
newcomers, but as the sessions continued, one player stood out. He was strong, fast, and
was in total control as he seemingly glided down the ptich. His vision was impecable, and
his passes always found their mark. He was unselfish and always sought out a teammate
to deliver a ball to, and when opportunity came to attack the goal, he was a brilliant finisher
whose shots on goal became an opposing goalkeeper's nightmare. He could do it all !!
SSFAC immediately turned the corner with Carlos leading the way. In his 1st season with 
the team, he led the club in scoring with 7 goals & 5 assists and lifted the team to a record
of 8-7-1. Things were looking up, but unfortunately before the 2016 season got underway,
Carlos suffered a torn ACL and was lost for the entire season. Without him, the team 
suffered on the pitch and just as much off it, as their emotional leader wasn't there to pick 
everyone up. SSFAC finished 7th in the league and slipped to a record of 5-10-3.
While his teammates hoped that he could return at some point, they knew the challenge
that Carlos faced. There would be months of rehab, along with the pain of recovery and the
emotional toll it would take, but Carlos was determined to do the work, prove to his doctor's 
that he would indeed find his way back to the field and contribute to his team. He did the 
work, kept pushing himself so he could again play the game he loved, and what he 
accomplished next wasn't a surprise. Carlos stepped on the field in 2017 with a look in his 
eye that said.... "Guys, I'm back, and I got you." The turn around was immediate. Along  
with teammate Franz Tschimben, the two of them accounted for 17 goals during the 2017-
18 season as the team began it's quest to climb in the league standings. During his time 
with SSFAC, the team amassed a record of 56 wins, 34 losses & 14 ties. Carlos would 
position himself 6th on the teams all time scoring list with a total of 34 goals & 24 assists. 
His impact was evident and the team completed their quest when they won the PSL Majors 
Division title in 2021. The Maestro had completed his masterpiece, and the team was on 
the receiving end of his work. The dedication to his team and the sport was undeniable. He
wasn't about to let a setback stop him from doing what he did best. He played with passion,
he led by example, pushed the envelope, loved his teammates, and he was so happy
to be able to contribute to the team he so enjoyed being a part of. That is just who he is.
Carlos knew exactly what he needed to do to help his team....Mission Accomplished !


Recently we caught up with Carlos and got his thoughts on his amazing career with SSFAC
Q:   How old were you when you first began playing?
CB: I started playing when I was 5 years old. My Dad was my coach and our team name  
was "The Warriors." I started playing AYSO and have fond memories of team banners, 
orange slices, and of course playing soccer with my friends.
Q:    Did you play any other sports as a youngster?
CB:  As a team sport, I played soccer and only 1 season of baseball. With friends 
throughout the year we played soccer, baseball, basketball, and back then, tackle football.
I was also really into skating and paintballing so we were always up to something.
Q:    At what point did you know that soccer was the game you'd stick with?
CB:  I always enjoyed the game. I remember the night before a game even as a little kid I
couldn't sleep becuase I was so excited to go to the match. I kept with it and most of my
friemds growing up played as well so it was just having fun for me. It wasn't until high 
school it hit me that soccer could be something you could get a scholarship for. I think that's
when I realized that I was all in.
Q:    Some of your favorite memories in the sport?
CB:  There are so many. I think those first years where my Dad was my coach were special.
We'd finish a game and then just do some more crosses and shots on goals just because.
Still, something me and my pops talk about to this day. There's also my crazy soccer 
championship game where we were down 2-0 at HT against our crosstown rivals Concordia
University. At that time Christian Ramirez (currently plays for Columbus Crew) was their
captain so it felt like we were gonna fall short. We ended up coming back 2-2 and then I 
chipped the goalie in double OT, we won the Championship, kinda game you'll never forget.


Q:    Where did you play High School soccer, and was your team successful?
CB:  Paloma Valley HS in Menifee. Not sure about this generation, but every year 100+ 
dudes would show up to try out for the team. We were Division 4 or 5 I think and hadn't won
our league in like 10+ years. We were able to qualify for CIF during my JR and SR years 
and made a name for ourselves during those crazy mid to late 2000's.
Q:    After High School you had a very good career at Biola University, what was the 
decision that led you to go to school there?
CB:  I grew up in a town where you either joined the Navy or went to community college if
you were lucky. College soccer was a faraway dream for a kid from Menifee and even more
so for a soccer program that had not made CIF in 10+ years. I was laser-focused on getting
a chance and was fortunate enough to get scouted by Bryan Kuderman at a game. The 
year before, Biola had been nationally ranked and so when I got the offer it was an easy 
decision. Another big part of my decision was Biola is a Private Christian School and 
although I wasn't necessasrily religious, I wanted to know more about Jesus, faith and what
it meant. Biola is a great place and I'll always cherish my time there.


Q:    Who had the biggest impact on you during your playing days?
CB:  I've been fortunate enough to play with really talented players, but I think players like
Daniel Chew, Cody Shelton, Julio Cuevas and Sava Pantic. These guys were good but also
some of the best leaders I got to share the pitch with during my college days.
Q:    When did you relocate to the Bay Area and why?
CB:  I think I moved to the Bay Area in 2015..I tihnk... Anyway, I ended up getting a job in
something weird called "Big Data" sales. Oh, and I also eventually met my Fiancee and
some of my best friends, so although it was hard at first due to the weather and expense,
I enjoyed my time.
Q:    How did you wind up playing with SSFAC's soccer team?
CB:  I think I googled "Adult men's soccer in South SF." At the time I was working around
Oyster Point and was looking for somewhere I could play after work. Mike Pizzo reached
out to me and I think asked, "Can you make it today to Terra Bay at 7pm." The OG's can let
you know the wonders of Terra Bay Park.
Q:    What teammates stood out to you over the years at SSFAC?
CB:  ooof gonna get me in trouble. I'll just go off the top of my head. Gareth Lea, Fernando 
Costa, Djimbaye Andemel, Gio Bianchi, Capo, Fabio Marques, Niccolo Giovannelli, Franz
Tschimben, Brendan Cadam, Adrian Monroy, Philippe Gradt, Jack Blackley, Matteo Lupo,
Sam Nadell, Kevin Ma, Aidan Durgerian, Felipe, Kian, Miguel, Szeto, Chris K. Bob Weger,
Shane Kutaka, Martin Wright, Ryan Waterston, and Greg Hui. These guys are legit and 
honestly can say it was an honor sharing the pitch with them.

Q:    Is there one game that leaves you with a special memory?
CB:  Too many, but a couple of seasons ago, I had just landed in SF and went staright to
the game. It was raining cats & dogs and the ref was having a game, if you know what I 
mean ;) haha. We had scored with maybe 5 mins left in the game but the ref called it off or
something...then we got a corner and Brendan heads it in ! We all go to the pub soaking
wet and laugh it up. It was a fun one haha.
Q:    Can you name one team that you enjoyed playing against the most and why?
CB:  Probably Santa Clara, we slowly caught up with them (used to lose 8-0) over the years
and that coach (might still be there) was a character haha. I enjoyed beating them.
Q:    You suffered a tough injury prior to the 2016 season that sidelined you for the year, 
how did you handle that experience, and what was the biggest challenge for you in getting 
back to playing again?
CB:  Anyone who has had an ACL or any major injury will tell you how hard it is. Mentally I 
was down and the Doc said it wouldn't be the same again. Luckily I was determined to 
make a full recovery and Mike and the team were there to support me. One of the hardest
things I had to go through for sure.
Q:    Looking at your playing days at SSFAC, how would you characterize your experience
with the team?
CB:  Kinda corny, but we became a brotherhood. Your average Sunday league - you go, 
you play, and you leave. We slowly built a community around the club where we share 
stories over beers, and hangout outside of soccer, and I think this reflected on the pitch. We
had something special where we played the game we loved and we all were friends.
Q:    In your 6 seasons with SSF, you rank 6th all time with 34 goals & 24 assists, that is 
very impressive. What is your favorite takeaway from playing with the team and one thing
when you look back will always leave you with a smile on your face?
CB:  Again, I think we were so fortunate to play the sport we love with friends. Usually, after
college that's over, but we created an awesome environment. I'll always remember after the
games us all going to Hometown Heroes for a beer and just hanging out a bit before going 
back to our "regular" lives.
Q:    What advice would you give to today's players?
CB:  My biggest advice would be to try to become friends with your teammates. Get to 
know them outside of the pitch. There were so many games we won not necessarily due
to skill but rather our team chemistry. Also playing is a privlege. Enjoy it! As Ferris Bueller
says, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could 
miss it."
Q:    Your favorite pro team and what player you love to watch?
CB:  Everyone knows I'm a die-hard Liverpool fan. My favorite players growing up were
Fernando Torres, Cesc Fabregas, Steven Gerrard, and Ronaldinho.
Q:    You've gone back home to Southern California, what does the immediate future hold 
for you, and what are you looking forward to?
CB:  I was suppose to be in the Bay for a year and stayed for 8..haha. It was a fun time in 
the City, but I was ready to come back home to sunny SoCal and the beach. Who knows
what the future holds, for now, I'm just taking one day at a time.
Q:    Will you still have a way to get your "soccer fix"?
CB:  I just recently found a team and played my first game last week. My first touch was 
with my weak foot and a tap in.. haha. So far so good.
Q:     Anything you would like to say to the current and future players at SSFAC?
CB:  Just enjoy it man. It's a Sunday, you're alive and playing footy. Cheers from Los.


Some players know their role and embrace it. They lead by example, with a dedicated work
ethic, challenging themselves to achieve the best that they can be. Enjoying every minute
on the pitch and playing with such passion. The way they play the game seems to suggest 
that win or lose....they have achieved all they could hope for as they relish the moments 
shared with teammates who have become such wonderful friends....that is what defines
Carlos and validates him as the total package. 
"Los" as he is affectionately referred to by his team, is sorely missed by his friends &
teammates at SSFAC. As difficult as it was to see him return to his home to SoCal, we all
are excited for him as he pursues his carrer off the field, reunites with all of his family, and
prepares for married life and building a family of his own.
For SSFAC, there will be more seasons ahead and many more players who will wind up 
wearing the team jersey and hoping to find that magic on the pitch that "The Maestro"
delivered every time he practiced, played, and endured. He will always be remember not 
just for his accomplishments on the soccer field, but for what he gave of himself as a 
person. That's just how it's done, and he certainly did it !!
As we have said many times before....."Once your part of the SSFAC Family, you are so
forever"............................. THANK YOU  "LOS"