Dana Taylor is working on a soccer trifecta seldom, if ever, seen in these parts.
This fall will be his sixth as the head coach of the California State University, Stanislaus, men’s soccer team, but he also is leading a nationally ranked under-13 team. And all of that is in addition to his role as head coach of the San Jose Earthquakes Premier Development League team, based at Warrior Stadium.
Prior to coming to Stanislaus State, Taylor coached Oregon State to an NCAA Division I Tournament berth, so his depth of coaching experience at multiple levels makes him someone capable of addressing a wide scope of soccer questions.
And with the emergence of the new team in town coming just a month before the 2014 World Cup, there might not be a better time to talk about soccer, starting with his Stanislaus team.
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You’ve been here for five years, had winning records the first four and slipped a little last season. What’s the current state of the program?
It’s the best it’s ever been. I’ve always been told it takes eight years to build a program. I wasn’t able to recruit in my first year here, but I brought a standard of playing with me from the Pac-12 and I made sure we were trying to get those kinds of players here. I’m very happy with those players, but last year, we faced a bit of a vacuum from the CCAA championship team that was mainly seniors. That team had a lot of freshmen getting 15 minutes per game, and the problem was getting them to go from 15 to 75 minutes. It’s a whole different level, and you don’t win championships with freshmen and sophomores on the pitch. We’re deep at every position now, and you’re going to see a team that really can move the ball. In my mind, this is the team I’ve been looking to build.
You and women’s coach Gabe Bolton have had a lot of success here. What is the role of this facility in building these programs?
As long as the upkeep is there, our facility is one of the best in the nation. That’s a strong statement, but even the PDL players were taking selfies in the locker room, amazed at the quality of our locker room, even when judged against professional locker rooms. And the field – we’ve had a professional team on the pitch (San Jose Earthquakes) and players from the top college programs in the country, and they’re telling me that this is the finest pitch they’ve played on. The facility isn’t being overused, but it’s nice that it is being used in the summer. It’s bringing people in, which is what it was intended to do.
Is it safe to say that without Warrior Stadium, Turlock doesn’t get the PDL team?
Is it natural for the local college coach to coach the PDL team? One of the rules is that you can’t coach your own players in the summer, and I’m thinking you might want some of your Warriors playing at this level.
The coaching situation is unusual, and not being able to coach my own players really is the only negative. The best situation is that I wouldn’t be the coach, but the team was still here and then my players could be on the team.
So how did you get to be the PDL team coach?
It started about seven years ago. I had players at Oregon State (Ryan Johnson, Richard Mulrooney, Brian Mullen) who helped the Earthquakes. Every year, a Pac-12 coach became a liaison to help push players into MLS, and it was my turn. San Jose called me and asked for my input on players. I became trusted by the Earthquakes staff. They saw me as someone in the area who could potentially help them and they wanted me to start developing youth teams in the area. I have one of the top under-13 teams in the state, and it’s under the Earthquakes’ umbrella. San Jose wanted to develop their market with the name and the brand and they wanted to do it with someone they trust.
That leads to the next question, because your new team is called the San Jose Earthquakes U-23 PDL team. When people think of minor leagues, they think about the Modesto Nuts, where all 25 players are under contract to the Colorado Rockies. You have a Quakes affiliation, but none of your players are under contract or are being paid by the Earthquakes. What is the formal affiliation between your team and the Quakes?
It’s 100 percent affiliated. Our team is the San Jose reserves. During the summer, college players come home, and PDL blossomed in the niche of giving those players a chance to play. The Earthquakes could mandate what players they want on this team, but for the first year, the goal was to get an idea about the college players from around the country, but live in the Bay Area, San Jose and the Central Valley. They’re identifying the talent and from that are getting an idea of who may be able to move up.
But since the MLS has a draft, these players could be drafted by anybody.
Yes, and it’s highly unlikely that the Earthquakes would be drafting a high number of our guys.
How will you judge the success of this team?
It’s been eye-opening for me in year one to take guys who all are chiefs on their college teams and bring them together, with some guys asking why they’re coming off the pitch. We want to win, but it’s not all-important. Winning a championship this year does nothing for the Earthquakes. You want to be reputable and have a good year, but this first year is about getting the brand out to the people of the Central Valley, that there is something unique happening here.
The name is unwieldy. You’re the San Jose Earthquakes Under-23 PDL team, and that won’t fit on a T-shirt. Can you change that to the Turlock Quakes or Central Valley Quakes?
At this point, I’ve been told no. It would help locally, but remember that this is all about regional branding for the San Jose Earthquakes. They want to be represented here in the Valley. I prefer that it be called San Jose Earthquakes PDL.
Trivia question. In the past 15 years, two athletes from Modesto – one male, one female – have played for the national team. Can you name them?
That male scored a goal against me for Portland and put my Oregon State team out of the NCAA Tournament. He came up from left back. Give me a second ... Heath Pearce.
And the female? Have you met Tisha?
Tisha Venturini? I obviously know who she is, but I didn’t know she was from Modesto.
We’re in a World Cup year, so this is the every fourth year where soccer in this country gets a nationalistic push. What’s your call for the U.S., and can it get through group play?
This is another great opportunity for the U.S. to showcase its skills. As an American, I’m 100 percent sure the team will advance.
Put the rah-rah shades aside. As a learned soccer watcher, what’s it going to take?
The reason Jurgen Klinsmann is the national coach and the reason he’s won a World Cup is that he knows what’s coming. He knows what players are coming at him and he’s going to play a certain way against Ghana. Some of the new guys are there to play a certain way against a certain team. When the full squad is out there, they can play with anybody.