Superfan Dan, the Unofficial Mayor of Monterey Bay FC

If you’ve ever watched a Monterey Bay FC match at Cardinale Stadium, chances are you’ve met Dan Devlin, Jr.

In fact, odds are you are now close friends with Dan.

Since the very first home match at Cardinale Stadium in May 2022, Dan has been one of the leading drivers of supporter culture in the Monterey Bay area. And it’s something he does one hug, one handshake, one warm smile at a time.

But to learn just how Dan became the unofficial Mayor of Monterey Bay FC, you first have to understand the role soccer has played in his life.

Growing up an Army brat, Dan and his family moved around. A lot. And while that meant Dan got to explore more cities than most of his young peers, it also meant that deep connections were hard to come by.

“I made and lost a lot of important friendships every time we moved,” shared Dan. “Soccer was the only true constant in my life. I wasn’t a particularly good player, but I loved the game, and it allowed me to meet kids at every military post we were stationed.”

In those early days, playing was the only option. Television coverage of soccer was sparse. And even when the World Cup came around, the United States team was nowhere to be found. So although Dan loved to play, it was almost impossible to follow a team consistently. That is, until the 1990s when Dan’s “football indoctrination” truly began.

At the time, Dan was attending Methodist College in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where he lived with a collection of roommates from across the globe. Most already had their own allegiances. And every Sunday night at midnight, they would gather around their dorm room TV to watch two-week-old Match of the Day highlights from across the Atlantic.

“If I was going to watch the show with everyone, they decreed that I choose a team to support,” joked Dan.

With little scientific research done beyond a simple eye test, Dan decided that he preferred the black and white stripes of then-Premier League newcomers Newcastle United.

Little did he know that quick decision would impact so much of his life. Since that moment, Dan has become one of the most diehard Newcastle supporters you will meet.

Among the many meaningful moments of his Newcastle soccer fandom was his wedding day. Yes, his wedding day.

Dan jokes that his wife, Tara, was surprised when he showed up to his own wedding because Newcastle was playing Ipswich Town that day. But she knew exactly what she was getting into because that night, at their wedding reception, she surprised her new husband with a trip to Newcastle for their honeymoon.

“It was a memory I’ll never forget,” beamed Dan. “And never be able to repay in full, either. Trash night, dishes, diapers, dog messes, litterboxes… they’re all my duties!”

But without diving too deep into his love for ‘The Toon’, there is another team that has also garnered Dan’s attention for decades.

After graduating in 1996, Dan moved west to Monterey, the same year that Major League Soccer was kicking off. By then, global coverage of the sport was easier to come by and the launch of the new American league meant Dan had a nearby team to root for – the San Jose Clash.

“I still remember driving to those first matches at Spartan Stadium on the San Jose State campus,” said Dan. “That antiquated relic of a stadium, with its high-walled bowl and narrow pitch, become a beloved fixture of mine for countless weekend matches.”

For decades, Dan would go on to follow the (now) San Jose Earthquakes through good times and bad times, all while waking up early and traveling as often as he could to watch his beloved Newcastle United.

So what does any of this have to do with Monterey Bay Union, you ask?

Monterey Bay FC

Fast forward to 2020 when Dan received a call from one of his close friends, Paul Whitecross, the owner of The Britannia Arms, the locals’ home for soccer in Monterey.

Paul asked Dan to join him at the pub because a few soccer executives were hosting an event, coincidentally on the 20th anniversary of the night Dan met his wife… at the very same pub.

In true Dan fashion, he gathered his wife and family, along with as many soccer friends as he could and made his way to “The Brit” to see what all the fuss was about.

When he walked in, he was greeted by familiar faces in the San Jose soccer community – Frank Yallop, former coach of his San Jose Earthquakes, as well as Chris Dangerfield, a former NASL Quakes player in the region and color commentator for San Jose. They were there as part of a team planning to bring professional soccer to the Central Coast of California.

The group explained their backgrounds (including a connection to Newcastle), their desire to bring a new club to the region, and plans to renovate the former Freeman Field football stadium on Cal State Monterey Bay campus (located on the former Fort Ord US Army property annexed by DLIFLC, which Dan’s late father commanded in the late 90s).

The connections were everywhere for Dan, and that night changed everything.

“I have loved Newcastle most of my life, and the same goes for San Jose, but now I was about to have a local club that I can call my own,” shared Dan. “This club plays right in my backyard and when I walk through those stadium gates, I know the people who work the beer garden, the security guards who greet me out front, and the people who fill the stands every match.”

He loves that he gets to run into the players at the grocery store down the street, and that one of his daughters doles out sprinkles to the players at the local ice cream shop where she works. For Dan, it’s what local soccer is all about.

Continued Dan, “This club, this appropriately-named Union, represents the Central Coast, the whole of the Monterey Peninsula and central Salinas Valley, the place I have called home now for more than half my life.”

Even more, as Dan explained, the club is doing something very few individuals and organizations have been able to do in the region. He surmises that too often there has been a divide between the coastal parts of the region and the Inland Valley.

“The club is pulling people from King City and Soledad; from Santa Cruz; from Hollister and San Juan Bautista. This club is truly a Union and that means a lot to me. We are making our community a better place, all through the love of the beautiful game.”

Altogether, it’s why Dan takes pride in being called “Superfan Dan,” a fitting moniker coined by his “gameday footy widow” missus, every time he steps foot into Cardinale Stadium.

On matchdays he is one of the first through the gates, greeting home and away supporters with a warm hello and his infectious smile. Then, when the game kicks off, Dan does laps around Cardinale Stadium with his drum to fire up the crowd and teach newcomers the latest chants for the day.

As a new club in USL, Dan knows it will take time to grow the supporter culture in Monterey, but it’s something he loves being a part of. Several local supporters’ groups have formed during the season, including Fogdog Footy, the group Dan & Tara formed to reference both the Central Coast’s famous atmospheric condensation and the local football club – the textbook definition of a fogdog is “a bright spot in a fog bank.”

“This is my club, this is a part of me,” said Dan. “This is a community thing, and I will do whatever it takes to grow the game of soccer here on the Monterey Peninsula.”