Jason Gerlach, CEO and Managing Partner at Sunrise Capital Partners, LLC, always liked the game of soccer, so when he learned about the existence of the North County Battalion in early 2016, he wanted to play a part.
The Battalion, founded by Jason Barbato in 2015, joined forces with San Diego Surf Soccer Club – one of the nation’s top youth clubs – to create the PDL franchise that competes in the Southwest Division today.
Gerlach’s interest in the club piqued last year after watching video news clips of his son’s soccer coach, Ryan Guy – who was a player on and later a coach for the Battalion.
“I was intrigued by what I saw, and having had a lifelong passion for soccer and strong interest in the business of pro sports generally, I went online to learn more about the new team,” Jason Gerlach told USLPDL.com. “I quickly found the Battalion's website and was impressed with its professionalism and compelling look and so I took the next step of signing on as founding ‘Brigade’ member of the team, and I also reached out to the team's founder, Jason Barbato, telling him how impressed I was and asking him if we could talk.”
Those talks led to Barbato asking Gerlach’s firm, Sunrise Capital Partners, about a sponsorship opportunity with the club. However, wanting to have more of an impact on the team and the game in the region, Gerlach did more than just work to sponsor them.
“Within a few days, we ironed out a sort of strategic partnership deal,” Gerlach said. “The rest is history.”
Gerlach became the Chairman and CFO of the club, and Sunrise Capital Partners continues to serve as the official sponsor of the team.
The club has turned heads in the region since joining the PDL. Led by Head Coach Cody Worden, the Southern California Surf have earned a 2-2 record. Nelson Pizarro leads the team in goals scored with four, while Andrew Stalboerger – who earned PDL Team of the Week honors following Week 3 action – has helped the back line earn two shutouts this campaign.
“We've been very impressed with the caliber and intensity of play thus far,” Jason Gerlach said. “The league is clearly filled with hungry players who are looking to prove themselves and stand out. This translates into very intense games and a lot of hard, spirited play which is great for our fans.
“Also excellent for us have been the instant local rivalries that have formed for us with teams like San Diego Zest FC and FC Golden State Force. From the first whistle, those two games in particular had next-level intensity, and it was obvious that something beyond just the outcome of a particular match was on the line. Instead, those games were about pride, bragging rights, sending a message, and it made them that much more intriguing.”
While the product on the field has caught the eye of Gerlach, he has also been impressed with how the PDL has operated.
“Information is proliferated in a timely and comprehensive fashion, scores and highlights are reported and disseminated rapidly via social media and the league, overall, is going a great job promoting itself, its teams and its players,” Gerlach said. “Being a PDL team feels very much like being part of something bigger than ourselves and part of a movement that is gaining momentum. That's been quite rewarding for us as owners, for our coaching staff and for our players as well.”
For Gerlach and the Surf, though, none of their success both on and off the field would be possible without the support from the community.
“Support for the club has been tremendous since we first launched, and the passion of our Doom and Gloom supporters group is second-to-none,” Gerlach said. “Every decision we make at Battalion is with them in mind, and our decision to join the PDL was no exception. Like us, our supporters want to see winning soccer and see Battalion win championships.”