The Day the Pro's Came to Town

The 1989 match between the PSL's SSFAC and the WSL's San Francisco Bay Blackhawks.  Click here to Read.


It was April of 1989, and South San Francisco A.C. had just completed their 5th season with Coach Mike Pizzo at the helm. They finished in 4th place in the 9 team 1st Division of the Peninsula Soccer League with an 8-5-3 record. At the same time, the San Jose Earthquakes had ceased operations in the Western Soccer League after finishing 1988 in 3rd place with a 7-5 record. They were to be replaced by the San Francisco Bay Blackhawks. The WSL was expanding from six teams to a nine team league with the debut of the Arizona Condors, Real Santa Barbara, and the Sacramento Senators. The Blackhawks taking over for the Earthquakes, would play in the North Division with the Seattle Storm, Portland Timbers, & Senators, while the South Division would consist of the Los Angeles Heat, California Kickers, San Diego Nomads, & the Condors along with Real Santa Barbara.

The Blackhawks were to open their season on April 22, 1989 with a match against the L.A. Heat at California High School in San Ramon, but prior to that beginning, the Hawks were looking to play a few pre-season games around the Bay Area to prepare the team and also create a fan base. After reading this in a local newspaper, Coach Mike decided to make a few phone calls. Eventually he was able to speak to the Blackhawks Vice President and General Manager, Terry Fisher. After meeting with Fisher, it was decided that a match on the Peninsula would be a great idea. It would enable the Hawks to introduce the team to a new group of fans, and would also serve as a perfect fund raiser for Mike's team by earning a portion of the ticket revenue for the match. South San Francisco High School was chosen as the site for the proposed match, and arrangements were made with the school to host the game. Volunteers cane on board to help with ticket sales, security and concessions,....the only thing missing was an opponent for the Blackhawks.

Coach Mike asked around, but no one was willing to play a pro team, so he decided, "why not us?" He had a follow up meeting with Terry Fisher to float the idea. Fisher questioned whether an amateur team of this nature could handle a team like the Blackhawks, but Mike assured him that he could get a decent crowd to come watch, the youth teams in the area would love to see this and become fans of the team, and the event would be a news maker for the north peninsula. The San Mateo Times newspaper had stated that they would attend the match and do a story. The Blackhawks were looking for the exposure, so the match was set. It would be the San Francisco Bay Blackhawks of the Western Soccer League vs South San Francisco A.C. of the Peninsula Soccer League at SSF High School's Clifford Field on April 8th, 1989 at 1:00 pm.

Now, Coach Mike had to sell the idea to his team. Their season had ended 3 weeks earlier, so he called a meeting to get the players together. After explaining what he had set up, the teams initial reaction was that Coach had lost his mind. "Are you serious?" they asked, "were going to get clobbered". Coach told his team that it would be a once in a lifetime experience and that absolutely no one would expect them to have any chance in the game, so why not go for it and have some fun, especially with the chance to raise a little money for the team. The team agreed to play, and Coach Mike asked a few players to join his squad as guest players for the match.

Match day had arrived, and it was a warm sunny day in South City. To the teams delight, a crowd of over 600 people came out to watch. Coach Mike was excited to show off his team to the fans in attendance, while his players were nervous and anxious prior to kickoff. Mike knew they were huge underdogs, and that everyone had come out to see the Bay Area's newest professional team, but that didn't diminish his enthusiasm. SSFAC took the field with a lineup that included the teams top two leading scorers, Danny Marcucci & Darrell Black, but unfortunately a season ending injury keep Marcucci from playing. There was a solid midfield group of Steve Bowker, Scott Eaker, Gus Lorente, Lance Cockerill & Pete Rossi. The defense was led by Dan Diodati, Bob Graham, Danny Gallegos, Larry Armanino, & Pat Saldahna. The goalkeeper was the dynamic John Perez, who had been terrific in goal all season. Coach Mike also invited Tris Rieland who starred at Skyline College, and Paolo Battaglini, who played at the University of Santa Clara. As the match got underway, the Blackhawks immediately intimidated SSF with a strong burst and put pressure on the defense forcing Perez to make some difficult early saves, but South City hung in there and tried to maintain their poise. They managed to keep the match scoreless for 16 minutes, before Hawks forward Steve Corpening found the net for the first of his three tallies on the day. The pace of the game was too fast for the home side and the pro's jumped out to a 4-0 halftime lead. In the locker room at halftime, SSF was disappointed, but not discouraged as they had managed to come forward and challenge the Blackhawks at times. Coach Mike told his boys to have fun, enjoy the moment, the crowd, and the experience of playing against an extremely talented team. They had given their best effort. The Blackhawks scored twice more in the second half to wind up with a 6-0 victory, but SSF walked off the pitch with their heads held high as they had come out and played very hard in the final 45 minutes, earning the respect of the Bay Blackhawks and the applause of the crowd who had admired their determined effort.


Afterwards, the team took pride in the attention the match had received from the San Mateo Times Newspaper, the national magazine "Soccer America" and locally produced newspaper "Soccer Magic". Although the Blackhawks had proved their superiority in the match, SSFAC had put up a good fight and the players were glad they had participated in this event. At the time, SSFAC knew they were playing a very impressive team that was hoping to make a run in the Western Soccer League, what they didn't realize was the background of some of the players and staff of the Blackhawks, and the eventual accomplishments they would reach.

The San Francisco Bay Blackhawks went on to post an 11-5 record in 1989, good enough to finish on top of the North Division of the WSL. They defeated the Los Angeles Heat 2-1 in the semifinals, but dropped a 1-0 decision to the San Diego Nomads in the League Championship game.

The team was owned by Daniel Van Voorhis, an attorney and also the President of the Blackhawk Corporation. They developed the prestigious Blackhawk Country Club and over 5000 homes in the San Ramon Valley.

Terry Fisher, was the Vice President and General Manager of the team. Fisher, a former player, also went on to coach in the North American Soccer League (NASL), Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL), and as a college coach. His friendship with Coach Mike went full circle when Fisher was named General Manager of the California Victory in the United Soccer League in 2007 and hired Mike as his Game Day Operations Manager.

Dean Wurzberger - Head Coach of the Blackhawks was the only American at the time to hold a Class "A" Scottish Coaching License. He served as UCLA's assistant men's soccer coach for 3 years under the direction of Head Coach Sigi Schmid, who is currently the Head Coach of the Seattle Sounders of MLS.

Bruce Morgan, currently the Head Athletic Trainer for the San Jose Earthquakes, was the Blackhawks Sport Health Team Trainer, and the team physician was Dr. Arthur Ting, who is well known in the greater Bay Area for his treatment of professional atheletes. The team also had it's share of big time players.....

Jeff Baicher - Midfielder,.. voted Foothill College's MVP after leading them to the California State Community College title in 1989.

Alex Basso - Defender,.. born in Argentina and raised in the United States, played for Independiente of the Argentine 1st Division. He also competed for the Detroit Lightning in MISL, the Golden Gate Gales in the ASL, and helped lead New York United to the ASL title in 1982-83. Basso also played several seasons with the San Jose Earthquakes.

Steve Corpening - Forward,.. Was an NCAA Division II All American and the MVP for Sacramento State in 1987. He also earned all state honors while at American River College in 1984 including MVP of the Camino Norte Conference.

Troy Dayak - Defender,.. Led the United States under 20 youth team to its highest placing ever in the 1989 youth World Cup. Signed with the Blackhawks as a 17 year old, the youngest player in the WSL. Played with the San Jose Clash from 1996-98 and went on to be a star for the San Jose Earthquakes from 2001 - 2005. He made 9 appearances for the United States National Team, and eventualy coached the California Cougars in the MISL.

David Palic - Midfielder,.. a second team All American out of the University of Santa Clara. He was a member of the 1989 University Games team and also had a school record of 34 assists in his career at SCU.

Derek Sanderson - Midfielder,.. spent 3 seasons with the San Jose Earthquakes, and also played for the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the MISL, as well as the Jacksonville Teamen and Portland Timbers of the NASL.

Nacho Navarette - Midfielder,.. a Division II All American at Cal State Hayward and led his team to the Northern California Athletic Conference title with 6 goals and 2 assists in 1987. He was the conference MVP as Cal State rolled to a 16-1-2 record under Head Coach Colin Lindores who was Mike Pizzo's coach at the College of San Mateo when Mike was the goalkeeper there in 1970.

Last but not least is John Doyle - Defender,.. a top 5 finalist for national college soccer's prestigious Herman Award in both 1987 & 1988. He played with the United States National Team for 2 1/2 years making 53 appearances, scored the lone goal for the U.S. against the Soviet Union in the Seoul, Korea Olympics, and became a staple on defense for the San Jose Earthquakes. He was named 1996 MLS Defender of the Year, eventually having his number retired by the team. He is currently the Earthquakes General Manager.

So there you have the story of the day the pro's came to town to meet Coach Mike's SSFAC soccer team. It was an event, and it made for some great memories. Now the South City players can look back and realize the unbelieveable talent and experience they had gone up against that day.. Maybe Coach Mike was "out of his mind"...but as he was an experience they will never forget.  

                                                                                     South San Francisco A.C. 1988-89

               Front Row, L to R:  Gus Lorente, George Melendez, John Perez, Larry Armanino, Lance Cockerill, Dan Diodati

               Back Row, L to R:  Coach Mike, Steve Bowker, Jeff Journey, Mack Fresques, Pete Rossi, Guillermo Contreras, 

                                                              George Perez, Scott Eaker, Darrell Black, Danny Marcucci, Bob Graham 

                                               The original newspaper article from the San Mateo Times, Monday, April 10, 1989