Welcome back to the Pyramid lades and gentlemen! We're just a couple of days away from the start of the 2016 MLS Season! Not only that, but the NASL and USL season openers are drawing closer too! I guess it's just soccer in general that's ramping up here in the good old US of A. Today is the last interview I'm releasing based on my Twitter poll at the start of February. That's right. If you follow the page on Twitter, you actually get to vote on what interview you want to read first! Here at American Pyramid, we love interaction.
Today's interview is with Jonathan Gardner of Burlingame Dragons FC. Burlingame is town in California, and the Dragons are the San Jose Earthquakes PDL affiliate. They also have a sweet logo, with one of the few good examples of how to do a soccer ball on logo. Jonathan was kind enough to actually take time on his vacation to do this interview, and not only that, he answered all the questions in one day! Check it out.
When did you first get interested in soccer in general and helping run a soccer team in particular? Was there a certain event that got you into the sport, or have you always been into soccer?
I played soccer growing up in Davis, CA. My family was big into the sport, and I played at Davis High School, we were one of the top teams in the country. After High School, I was offered an opportunity to walk-on at the University of Michigan to play soccer, they had just started their Division 1 Men's Program. I decided for academic reasons to go to the University of California at San Diego and didn't play soccer in College. I picked up the game again after school, and up until recently played at the semi-pro level (i don't play for the Dragons FYI, just in the front office).
Can you recap the history of Burlingame for me? Basically, what's the teams 'origin story?'
We are heading into our second season. I was not with the club during our inaugural season, so I'll defer to this article in the local newspaper to give you an idea about the history/origins of the club --> http://www.smdailyjournal.com/articles/sports/2014-12-09/dragons-fc-soccer-swoops-into-burlingame/1776425134699.html
Where did the idea for the nickname Dragons come from? And that logo you have is pretty sweet too.
Good question, I was not around for the creation of the club but the name and logo were designed by our co-owner Nick Swinmurn.
Before we go any deeper, where in the Bay Area is Burlingame located?
Burlingame is located 15 miles south of San Francisco.
How would you describe Burlingame to someone who's never been there? Basically, what makes your town awesome.
Burlingame is a town that has a wonderful small community feel. There's a great downtown which is walkable to our games, it's right on public transit to get up to SF, or down to San Jose very quickly. Lots of young families in the area, and there's a real sense of community in Burlingame which you don't necessarily get in many of the larger communities in the Bay Area.
Can you describe the soccer scene in the Bay Area for me? Things like level of interest, participation, those kind of things.
Soccer is huge in the SF Bay Area, there's massive youth participation across the board. The area is a hotbed for talent, there's a good amount of MLS players and guys in Europe from the area. On the professional level, the Earthquakes are very popular, their new stadium is fantastic. There are several other clubs in the area at the semi-professional level who have done well historically also.
Tell me a little bit about the league you're in, the Premier Development League. What kind of advantages does it have over other leagues that you may have looked at when forming the team?
The main thing that drew us to the PDL is the level of play. We were looking for a professional environment, and the league gives us that considering something like 70% of the guys in MLS have played PDL. We really operate like a professional club both on and off the field, and the PDL gives us the flexibility to do that.
Does the PDL have a long term vision for their league and your teams role in that future?
I think the PDL is always focused on developing talent to go on to the next (professional) level. For us, that means guys use the Dragons as a stepping stone to their professional careers, and we embrace that. We've already had several guys sign professional contracts after just one season at the PDL level.
Why should the average soccer fan, both in California and across the US, care about a team in Burlingame?
We have a strong affiliation with the San Jose Earthquakes. They provide us with some extremely talented players, some US Youth National Team guys, others who will be professionals in the very near future. I think we offer a great opportunity to see high level soccer, at a low cost (ticket prices are very low), and the players and organization are very accessible. Think minor league baseball versus major league baseball.
Cast a vision for me: Where do you see Burlingame Dragons in 5 years?
The soccer landscape is changing so rapidly, but I would hope we would be a fully professional club by then.
Can you elaborate on the teams ambition to go pro one day?
Regarding professional ambitions, we are such a young club going into only our second season (the club was literally founded only 1 year ago). We want to establish ourselves as a huge presence in the sporting landscape of the Bay Area before we can think about moving up. Last year, we averaged 1,700 fans per match which is fantastic for PDL. As long as we can continue to grow both on and off the field, we hope to make that professional jump in the near future. Something however is that we will need our own venue, as our current facility is a high school which is not viable at the next level. There's a lot of moving parts regarding a jump to full professional status, for now we are focused on making 2016 a huge success.
Bonus Questions: Who's your pick to win the MLS Cup next year?
What's your favorite book, regardless of genre?
Game of Thrones
Who's your favorite current soccer player, and favorite past player?
Current - Aron Jóhannsson Past - Brian McBride
Do you have a favorite soccer book, movie or podcast?
What's your favorite league and/or team to watch?
Where can people find out more about yourself and the team?
You can find us at our website, http://www.burlingamedragons.com, or on Facebook and Twitter.
What would you like to say to the people reading this article about why they should get out and support the lower levels of American soccer?
I would say it's similar to minor league baseball, you will see many talented young players, who will become professionals at a low cost and who are extremely accessible. In addition, it's important to support local soccer in your community, whether at the youth or adult level. We can only benefit as a soccer playing nation when there is support from the top all the way to the bottom.
Jordan, thanks again for taking the time to do this with me. Now if you are enjoying the content I'm putting out, I'd encourage you to click here to Follow me on Twitter, or here to Like the page on Facebook. And if you'd like even more content coming your way on the regular, click here and sign up for the weekly newsletter, containing fun articles and videos, sometimes covering soccer, sometimes not. Make sure to spread the word. Share interviews, tell friends about the blog, those kind of things. I can't accomplish my goal of maximum exposure for all levels of the American Soccer Pyramid without you. Until next time, Stay Loyal, Support Local.