Men’s soccer coach goes pro, stays within collegiate play
What would you do if you just coached your team to its first CCAA tournament birth since 1978 and won coach of the year?
If you’re SF State men’s soccer coach Javier Ayala-Hil, you take on a massive new challenge and accept the head coach position for an entirely new team.
Ayala-Hil was announced in January of this year as San Francisco Glens Soccer Club’s first head coach for their inaugural season in the USL-PDL, the unofficial fourth tier of professional soccer in the United States.
“For me, it’s an honor,” said Ayala-Hil, a Bay Area native, of the appointment and the chance to coach so close to home. “I know [the Glens] been very ambitious, have wanted to do something big.”
The East Palo Alto product, who claims he is “obsessed” with the game, played his college soccer at UC Berkeley from 2004-07 and was drafted by Chivas USA in the 2008 MLS supplemental draft. After MLS, Ayala-Hil played for teams in Puerto Rico, Thailand, Vietnam and Germany before returning home to start his coaching career.
After successful coaching stints at Miramonte High School, UC Berkeley and SF State, the Glens took notice and came calling.
“For me it was something unexpected, especially at my age, but I’m sure they see the value in bringing me in despite that,” said Ayala-Hil. “I’m a local guy, I grew up in the Bay Area, I’ve pretty much been here my whole life and I’m very familiar with the area. I know there is massive potential to have a good, quality team, especially here in The City.”
San Francisco Glens team president and general manager J. Ramon Estevez called Ayala-Hil, “a perfect match” for the new PDL team.
“We’re very excited to be working with someone that shares our passion for, and connection to, the local soccer community,” said Estevez.
Ayala-Hil claims he was drawn to the project because of the pyramid structure the Glens have in place that models how the majority of clubs in Europe function. The Glens will now field their youth teams with the goal of developing them for their new PDL team that tops the pyramid of the club. Ayala-Hil claims that this system allows the club to be built from the grassroots level and instills a playing style from the youth teams to the first team.
Founded in 1961, the Glens have numerous youth teams across the Bay Area, but have never had a senior first team, until one was created for the 2018 season. Ayala-Hil will now be the dual boss of both SF State men’s soccer and the Glens.
SF State Associate Athletic Director of Communications and Fan Development Brandon Davis isn’t worried about the potential conflict of interest.
“The Glens season doesn’t overlap so it shouldn’t impact SF State. If anything it will benefit our program by giving him added exposure,” said Davis.
The opportunity for scheduling conflicts is minimal as SF State’s men’s soccer season starts in August and lasts until December, while the Glens’ inaugural USL-PDL season will begin in April and end in July.
Ayala-Hil has already identified what he called his “first focus.” The new Glens boss wants to establish a vision for how he wants his teams to play. A disciple of Johan Cruyff, Pep Guardiola and Marcelo Bielsa, Ayala-Hil unsurprisingly emphasizes a possession-based game in which his team presses with intensity on defense and keeps the ball on the ground on offense. Ayala-Hil wants his teams to have a battling mentality and to buy into the team culture above all else. He insists that with a high level of commitment to their goals, the Glens will establish a winning culture.
“If we focus on a vision and the execution, then that will translate into results,” said Ayala-Hil.
Not content to sit back and relax, Ayala-Hil will keep pushing to better himself.
“I want to reach the highest level, whether here (SF State) or there (the Glens), the mentality is no different,” Ayala-Hill said.
Thus far, wherever he has gone, Ayala-Hil has been able to achieve those results and now he has a chance to manage in his hometown.
The Glens will have a chance to see how that vision translates onto the field when they take on Santa Cruz Breakers FC at their home field, Boxer Stadium, on May 5 at 5 p.m.