The Players Who Paved The Way

This is the first installment of "The Players Who Paved The Way." We look back at some of the great players who wore the SSFAC shirt as the team established itself in the Peninsula Soccer League. First up is Defender Dan Gallegos.   Click Here For Story.

South San Francisco A.C. had changed hands in 1984 as Coach Mike Pizzo took over the club from former Coach Alvaro Bettucchi, and the first thing on the agenda was putting together a new line-up with players that Coach Pizzo had known from his involvement in the AYSO program in SSF. It would be a young team that would take time to build and come together. One thing was  for certain, the team needed a strong defense to be able to compete with the clubs in the Peninsula Soccer League. The league was very competitive and the level of play was more advanced than this new group of players was accustomed to, so it would be a work in progress and patience was essential. Although they struggled the first few seasons in the league, South City was building for the future and beginning to emerge as a challenger in the league as the calendar moved into the 1990's. One of the keys to the clubs success was the play of defender Dan Gallegos. Dan quickly became the standout leader on defense. He played the sweeper position and took full control of the teams play coming out of the back as he started the transition to the offensive attack. He feared nothing, and although he wasn't the biggest defender on the pitch, he played like it. Attacking players from other teams tried to steer away from him as they knew he would either run them down and stall the offensive thrust, or cleverly steal the ball away and gain possession for SSF. He was as fast as he was strong and physical, frequently running down players who had slipped through the defense. His play helped lead SSFAC to the 2nd Division title in 1996-97 when the team had a record of 13-1-4, allowing just 22 goals. During a 2 year stretch in Division 2, 1995-97, the team had a combined record of 25-4-7 while scoring 95 goals and allowing only 34, the best 2 year period in the teams history.

In the final years that Dan played for SSF, he became the assistant coach, and helped guide the team while still being "the rock" on defense. His passion for the game combined with his work ethic, overall dedication to the team, and outstanding play for 15 seasons is why you will find his name as one of SSFAC's  "All Time Best Eleven."  Recently we had a chance to catch up with Dan and get his thoughts about playing.

Q: At what age did you first begin playing?
A: I started in the 6th grade around the age of 10.
Q: Did you play other sports as a youngster?
A: I played basketball, football, and ran track.
Q: When did you realize that soccer was the game you would stick with?
A: In high school I started to favor soccer and track.
Q: What was the best youth team you played on?
A: SSF Renegades - AYSO.
Q: Your best memory from youth soccer?
A: There is too many to list, a great part of my life growing up. Made lots of friends who I am still close with today, 30 years later.
Q: How did you become involved in adult soccer?
A: Coach Mike Pizzo kept me involved.
Q: What position did you play for SSFAC?
A: Sweeper position.
Q: Teammates that stood out over the years?
A: Darrell Black, Birger Nesteby, Mederik Ravel ( great player from France ) and Cuch...Dan Marcucci.
 Q: Do you have one game that leaves you with a special memory?
A: Yes, the one where Steve Bowker went flying through the air trying to break up a fight while wearing a cast due to a broken arm. Or when we played Shaheen in San Jose, and one of their players tore my shorts and underware right off me, Dan Diodati's wife then came running to cover me up with her picnic blanket.
 Q: What team did you enjoy playing against the most, and why?
 A: I can't think of a specific team, I was pretty competitive back then and didn't differentiate.
 Q: What would you call your best moment and your most forgettable moment while playing for SSF?
 A: It always seemed like we had the early game after Halloween, memorable sitting around with the guys talking about the night before, forgettable the feeling I had while playing with a hangover.
 Q: Looking back at your playing days with SSFAC, how would you characterize your experiences with the team?
 A: It was a very fun part of my life which left me with many great memories and friends. 
 Q:  Towards the end of your playing days, you were the assistant coach as well. What was that like and did you enjoy the dual role?
A:  I'm not sure I really enjoyed that role, probably focusing on one as trying to juggle both would have been better for my personality. However, I do appreciate the acknowledgement and confidence shown by asking me to do it.
Q: You were selected as one of the teams all time Best Eleven, it possible for you to name one player that you felt was the best you played with? 
A: I can think of two who played the game better than others in terms of strategy and both had great fundamental skills, Mederik Ravel & Birger Nesteby both whom I mentioned earlier. It could have been that they both grew up in European countries, Mederik in France and Birger in Norway. Both helped me become a much better player. Early on I relied on my physical strength ( mostly my speed, I was a college track sprinter.) Those two both helped me to understand the great feeling that comes with developing a play from the defense and watching it get executed. There's really nothing like identifying an open man and be able to think ahead and decide where you should be next and where you will put the ball once you get it back, it is almost like chess, seeing what can be done a few plays later as opposed to being a reactionary player. Once it has been fully executed as planned it is a great feeling. Those two taught me an entirely different game.
Q: What are you currently doing?
A: Currently working in finance as an asset manager and bond trader. 
Q: Family?
A: I am married with two young girls.
Q: Are you involved with sports at this time?
A: Currently I organize an annual soccer tournament for my company. I've done this for the past five years, and over 120 players participate each year.
Q: Any particular team that you follow?
A: Barcelona.
Q: You played at such a high level, leading by example, always giving 100% and totally dedicated. What advice would you give to today's players?
A: Extend your soccer playing career by playing smarter, instead of physically harder.
Q: Anything you would like to add or say to the current SSFAC team?
A: Congratulations, at the time of writing this you guys are in first place in the Premier Division.

Dan's Final season for SSFAC was 1999, but if he was on the pitch with today's players not much would be different. He would strap on the boots, greet you with a smile, wish you all the best, and then battle you with every ounce of energy he had. That was the type of player he was. Over the years he became the smart player he had longed to be. He developed chemistry with everyone he played with and had the heart and soul of a champion. Even today.....he would be the ultimate teammate !


                                                                      SSFAC 1996-97 PSL 2ND DIVISION CHAMPIONS
                     Front Row L to R:  Dan Gallegos, Helio Tejeda, Birger Nesteby, Raphael Del Castillo, Roberto Alvarado,
                     Alex Masis, Gus Lorente, Dean Ferraris.   Back Row L to R:  Coach Mike, Tim Matthews, Tim Kingsbury,
                     John Michael Tealdi, Chuck Smith, Mederik Ravel, Dave Tanner, Lance Cockerill, Mike Luebben,  
                     Dr. Patrick Cheng - The Back Doctor