San Fernando Valley FC comes of age with Dream Open Cup debut

He saw the same thing as I did: the need to have that connection with the players. Not every player is the same and a coach cannot reach all players equally,” Cortez said of the budding coaching partnership. “Kyle’s different approach, his different personality was important in both the human and coaching parts and we complement each other very well. We agree that the way to get the best out of players is to get to know them.”

San Fernando Valley FC advanced to the UPSL SoCal North Division I table in the 2021 fall season, winning its last five games to earn promotion to the UPSL SoCal Premier for the first time.

“My message has always been to not get too far ahead,” Keenan said. “Just stay humble, stay focused and work for your brothers and the week ahead. It resonates.”

The promotion was a major milestone for the club, which continues to be one of the youngest entrants in the UPSL.

“We’re just aligned in our vision of what we want to do [but] It definitely starts with Carlos and Christine behind the scenes,” Keenan admitted. “Your support of this project is so pure you can feel it. You can feel how much they care about the players as people and the players know that, so it just seeps into the training and the environment within the team.

“It’s just a really great group of people,” Keened nodded.

A new benchmark

With the club’s foundations firmly in place, the achievement of even greater goals has forced a reassessment and the creation of a new path forward.

“Everyone has to start somewhere, you know? Then you can build up,” said Rivas.

The Cortez Valley United U19 team won the CSL Gold North Bracket in 2016 with a 9-1-0 record, so they have a bigger prize in mind.

When SFV FC won the UPSL SoCal North Division I with an unbeaten 9-2-0 record and achieved promotion, it made sense that their focus would be to secure a spot in the US Open proper for the first time in the club’s young history to secure cup.

“The coaching staff and the players, we just matched each other’s mentalities and pushed each other,” Keenan said. “There have been times when players have pushed us and pushed us to get better and hopefully we’re doing the same.”

For a club that always achieves something, the next steps have become necessary. In UPSL, that means winning the SoCal Premier Division and the UPSL National Final. But when it comes to the Open Cup, each participant shares the same one-game-at-a-time philosophy.

“Now is the time to dream even bigger,” Cortez said. “We made it here. We can go further now.”

Pope is a sportswriter from Southern California. Follow him at @DennisPope on Twitter.

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