As soccer fans turn their attention to France and the Women’s World Cup for the next month, there are thousands of other players toiling away in anonymity. Players who are still chasing the dream of playing the sport at the highest levels — or at the very least, the next level.
JASA RWC, a Redwood City-based soccer club that trains and plays its home matches at Red Morton Park, is a program that wants to help those type of players reach the next level. Fronted by Will Stambaugh, a longtime soccer fixture on the Peninsula, and Jake Morrison, JASA RWC is a college/adult-level club playing in USA Amateur Fourth Division as a member of the United Premier Soccer League.
JASA RWC currently has three teams — an “open” team that participate in the UPSL, a reserves squad, dubbed JASA Dos, as well as a women’s side.
“This is a home-spun, grass-roots, local, community-based soccer program,” said Stamnbaugh, who is JASA RWC head coach and director of operations, while also serving as owner of a field supply company. “What it’s about right now is, it’s giving that … college-aged, mid-20s player a pathway, if you will, to continue playing and moving to the next level. … There is a real need for a pathway for these 18 to 22 year olds.
“We’ve sent players to New Zealand, Australia, a couple guys to Greece. That’s in the last three, four years.”
Salifu Jatta, a 2013 South City graduate who scored 11 goals his senior season with the Warriors and who spent the 2018 fall season with JASA RWC, is now playing professionally for Corpus Christi FC, which plays in the USL.
JASA RWC wraps up its spring season at 4 p.m. Saturday, with a road game against AFC Hearts of San Francisco at City College of San Francisco. JASA RWC currently sits in fifth place out of 11 teams in the Wild West Division of the UPSL Western Conference with a record of 4-2-3 (using the traditional European way of recording a record, that is 4 wins, 2 draws and 3 losses).
Last fall, JASA RWC made it to the third round of the local qualifying tournament for the 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup — a tournament that is open to teams like JASA RWC and up to MLS squads.
The benefit of playing in the UPSL is that there is about a six-week break before teams start preparing for the fall season, giving players an opportunity to be playing nine months out of the year.
And JASA RWC is not just some drop-in, Sunday league. This is professional-level training with high-level competition and the expectation is that a player is of equal ability. While Stambaugh has said he has never actually cut anyone, it usually becomes known early that a prospective player just doesn’t have the chops to compete at this level.
But JASA RWC is not wanting for players. The team currently trains twice a week, with a game on Saturday and Stambaugh estimates there are roughly 70 players that train for the various teams.
“We have a decent pool of players,” Stambaugh said. “I think there are 30 guys that are registered as UPSL players. … I have (a core of) 18 to 20 guys who want to go (to every game).”
While JASA RWC is what one would call a “semi-pro” team, the players are not getting paid — or is any of management. In fact, they have to pay to play, since there are a number of fees that have to be paid — to the UPSL, field rental, hiring of referees and traveling fee, along with uniform and equipment costs.
Stambaugh, however, looks at that as an incentive.
“It gives them skin in the game. ‘I paid my hundred bucks for the season, so I’m going to go train,’” Stambaugh said.
While the ultimate dream would be to make JASA RWC a full-blown semi-pro club, where players — and management — could make a living, Stambaugh has no problem with where the club currently is.
“We’re progressing. In hindsight, it’s slow, but sometimes slow is good,” Stambaugh said. “We’re near the top of the [standings]. We’re competitive. … We’ve made huge strides in my tenure. … Over the last two, three years, we’ve gone from what it was, to what we are: which is 30 to 70 guys training (to play soccer).”
If you’d like more information about JASA RWC go to the club’s website at www.jasarwc.com.