Photo credit: Kelly L Cox/KLC Photos
The San Francisco Deltas, in their first season in the NASL, won’t just be a side trying to find its footing. Instead the club will be aiming to hit the ground running.
“Expectations are high,” midfielder Michael Stephens told NASL.com. “It’s going to be a high-tempo attacking team, a proactive team that wants to take the game to teams. Even though we’re a new team, we want to come in and get results right away.”
Stephens brings plenty of experience to the Deltas having won two MLS Cups during his time with the LA Galaxy, while also plying his trade abroad in Norway.
“That was a great time in my career – I was young and got to learn from a lot of good players,” Stephens said of his time with the Galaxy. “That team was stacked, as far as having a lot of veteran players, so I was able to learn how to become a professional.”
A key experience, though, for Stephens, 27, was his time in Norway with Stabæk after the club was promoted to the Tippeligaen for the 2014 season.
“The experience I’ll most take is when I was in Norway where I went to a club that was promoted from the second division to the first division,” he said. “It’s similar to the Deltas which is just becoming a new club.”
Stephens made 30 appearances for Stabæk, helping the club reach a mid-table finish.
“It was at a point in my career where I wasn’t progressing the way I wanted to individually,” Stephens said. ”I thought the opportunity at Stabæk would be a great one. I really enjoyed my time there.”
During his stay with the Norwegian first-division side, Stephens played under the guidance of former U.S. men’s national team coach.
“It was a great experience,” Stephens said about playing for Bradley. “He’s very knowledgeable. I was the one American pretty much the whole season so I got it pretty good with him giving me individual feedback. I think I improved a lot being over there and just learning from him and seeing how he approaches things.
“He’s one of the hardest working people I’ve been around, he’s very disciplined. There’s a lot you can learn from someone like that.”
Stephens will now look to make the most of his time in San Francisco, joking that it’s the first time he’ll be in the city, despite playing on the West Coast from 2010-13. The Deltas are already well into preseason training, recently defeating the San Jose Earthquakes of MLS, 1-0, in a friendly.
Stephens and the Deltas officially kick off their first NASL campaign on March 25 against Indy Eleven at Kezar Stadium.
“I think there will be a lot of excitement and energy,” he said.