Not too long ago, Real San Jose Coach Markus Kothner said his team played games before a handful of fans and the team usually lost.
Things have improved dramatically since then and if Kothner has his way, things will get even better in the future.
On Saturday night, Real San Jose will make its first playoff appearance since 2010 when it plays CA Victory FC in the first round of the United Premier Soccer League (UPSL) playoffs.
The game will be played at 7 p.m. at Montgomery High School in Santa Rosa.
RSJ qualified for the playoffs by finishing fourth in the UPSL NorthWest regular season. It will face CA Victory FC, a team that beat RSJ 1-0 in their most recent meeting.
It will be tough to take down the regular season champions. However, Kothner said the team has a decent chance if its defense plays well.
The playoff appearance itself is a remarkable step forward for RSJ. It marks only the second time Real San Jose has appeared in the postseason. The first time came in 2010 when it competed as a member of the National Premier Soccer League.
Kothner said the team’s success defied his own projections. He said the team’s original goal was to identify a core group of 10-12 players on whom the team could build upon.
Instead, the team jelled.
Kothner said it helped the team played an exhibition game in Arizona before the season. That game played before 2,800 fans, TV cameras, and the home team’s cheerleaders was an eye-opener for some RSJ players who never played in such a prominent atmosphere.
RSJ might have lost, but it lost to a team with a member of the Costa Rican national team and a player who once played in the first division of the Mexican League. The Arizona team trained twice as much as RSJ.
The team’s practices were also more interesting, Kothner said.
The team’s success on the field led to an increase in the number of players attending practice. He said he no longer had to play players in games simply because they turned out to the game.
“The more successful you are, the more people will come out and see why you are successful,” Kothner said.
That kind of success, he said, is the sort of thing that brings out scouts from teams like the San Francisco Deltas, who might be thinking of signing new players.
RSJ’s playoff game is three days away. But Kothner said he and team owner Nick Arellano are already thinking of how they can build on this season’s success.
Anyone can join the team for a practice, he said. He said those practices have been held Tuesday and Thursday evenings at Ramac Park in San Jose.
But the first step in the RSJ future is that playoff game in Santa Rosa this weekend.