Pro soccer team 1904 FC wins its home debut at SDCCU Stadium

For a professional soccer team named with numbers, here was the most important one in 1904 FC's first home game in history:



That was the score against the California United Strikers at SDCCU Stadium after cobbling together a roster in a matter of weeks, then struggling through preseason exhibitions and in last week's 2-0 opening loss against the LA Force.

Maybe an even bigger question than how they'd play was how they'd draw at a 70,000-seat venue with less than two months to form a team in a new league, the National Independent Soccer Association. The announced attendance of 3,028 seemed a little generous, but 1904 looked like it did draw, well, about 1,904.


They were still swallowed by the cavernous, venerable stadium, but it wasn't the sparse gathering that some feared given the club's tribulations, taking more than two years (and three different leagues) from foundation to field and still not releasing an official roster.

Wanting to cement its provisional status as a third-division league by U.S. Soccer, NISA opted to hastily organize a six-game "showcase" in 2019 instead of waiting until 2020 to launch. 1904 FC has four more games, including two at SDCCU Stadium on Sept. 28 and Nov. 2, before preparing for a separate spring season after a winter break.

The first goal in 1904 FC history came in the 11th minute, when former Tijuana Xolos youth player Moe Espinoza cut inside from the right and curled in a cross to another product of the Xolos academy. Forward Lorenzo "Tito" Ramirez Jr. sliced between two defenders and headed it home.

Ramirez also scored the third goal in club history, moments after Billy Garton drew a penalty kick and converted it for a 2-1 lead in the 52nd minute.

Ramirez grew up in San Diego and attended Hoover High before leaving for the Xolos at age 16. He was among the 49,617 at SDCCU Stadium in March to watch Mexico beat Chile in an exhibition.

"I had a vision that one day I would play here," Ramirez said. "I didn't know how, I didn't know when, but here I am … I'm very proud to represent San Diego."

The goal came in front of 1904 FC's "ultra" fan club, which on this night consisted of a couple dozen people positioned behind the west goal. There were some drums, noise makers and five flags: one each from the U.S. and Mexico, one with a 1904 logo, one with a skull and crossbones, and one of Che Guevara.

And for maybe the first time in soccer history, a fan club didn't chant names but numbers.


19, clap-clap, 04, clap-clap.

(The numbers represent S and D's position in the alphabet.)

Ramirez's second goal, flicking a cross from Dallin Cutler past Cal United goalkeeper Kifi Cabrera, brought the first smoke bomb in 1904 FC history, hurled by the fan club onto the field behind the goal.

Some fans missed kickoff because of long lines at what few ticket windows were opened. One factor may have been that several youth soccer clubs were offered unlimited free tickets on Friday night via email, and people were trying to pick them up at will call. (The club acknowledged the issues and apologized in a halftime announcement.)

But at least there were people picking up tickets. And many stayed afterward, lining the bottom railing to offer congratulations to the players, slap hands and touch a piece of history – even if it meant long lines leaving the stadium because only one auto exit was open.

"I'm so proud, everybody came," said a beaming Alex Gontran, 1904's head coach from France. "The atmosphere was amazing. I can't describe it. I told our players, 'Guys, if you can enjoy what you're doing on the field, you can give this vibe to the fans.' I think the people could feel that."