As the calendar flips from 2019 to 2020 the offseason for San Antonio FC is about to kick into a higher gear. In the meantime, let’s take a look back at what has happened so far for the black and silver since their season ended in October. They fell just short of a post season birth for the third time in four seasons and that was enough to bring about the first coaching change in team history.
It was a quiet November for SAFC but December was a different story. Things began falling into place once San Antonio FC finally decided on a successor to the only Manager the team has ever known. Darren Powell departs after a disappointing four year run that ended with only one playoff appearance and one playoff win. As it turns out, SAFC had the man they wanted all along as Alen Marcina was promoted from Powell’s Staff to the helm of Manager. It’s the second time that Marcina will guide a San Antonio team at Toyota Field as he led the San Antonio Scorpions to the NASL Championship in 2014.
The challenge for Marcina will be to match that previous success with a different club. The good news is that Marcina will bring familiarity with SSE, the front office, and the team he inherits. But some will feel this was a safe move for the organization when an outside voice may have been preferred. Fans will likely not be patient after an underwhelming tenure with Powell. Marcina now has his chance to make his mark in San Antonio once again and quiet any lingering doubters.
It will be interesting to see what style of football he brings to the field. Powell was known for his defensive minded style which left the SAFC attack relatively bland compared with most of the USL over most of those four years. Will he hang onto to those philosophies or try a different approach?
So far San Antonio FC has only named three players to the 2020 roster. You can expect about 20 more of those announcements in the next couple of months leading up to the season, but for now, here’s a quick look at who is on the 2020 squad, which includes two returnees from 2019 and one new face.
Headlining the returning players is Midfielder Cristian Parano. The 20 year old Parano was named USL Young Player of the Year for 2019 and he was named USL Player of the Week twice last season. Parano finished as SAFC’s 4th leading scorer and he was also second on the team in Assists. He’ll be looked to as a leader of the SAFC attack in 2020.
Joining him as a returning player is Defender Ebenezer Ackon. He was an iron man in 2019 finishing second on the team in minutes played with 2,970. Ackon also led SAFC in duels (431) and duels won (278), while finishing second on the team in blocks (21), interceptions (47), tackles won (54) and aerial duels won (82).
Said Ackon at the announcement, “It’s a great honor to be a part of this family for the 2020 season,” Ackon said. “I’m very thankful to SAFC and everyone who has contributed to my professional journey. I can’t wait to get back to business and achieve great things with the team this season.”
San Antonio FC named their first new player of 2020 last week and in keeping with their tradition of showcasing local talent, they brought back a Boerne native. Defender Blake Smith joins SAFC most recently from the Canadian Premiere League. He also has experience in both USL and MLS, originally drafted by the Montreal Impact 8th overall in 2013. Said Smith, “I’m super excited to be back home. Obviously this is something I’ve wanted to happen at some point in my career, and it’s just the perfect moment for me to make the move back to San Antonio. My wife and family couldn’t be happier that we are back. I’m excited to help out the club and I can’t wait to get going.”
Smith was raised in Boerne and attended Boerne Champion High School while also playing for Classics Elite. He was named the 2009 San Antonio Express-News Player of the Year while with Champion
While we don't have a complete picture of who will be on the 2020 SAFC Roster, we do have a far better understanding of players that will not be back with SAFC. Headlining that list is Midfielder Jack Barmby who signed with Phoenix Rising FC. His one season in SA was very productive. He finished tied for the team lead in Goals and third in Assists. He was also counted upon for delivering quality free kicks. That is a role that will have to be replaced and he will leave a big void in the SAFC attack overall.
Also gone for 2020 will be Forward Frank Lopez as he returns to his parent club LA Galaxy II from a mid-season loan to SAFC. Lopez was an offensive game changer for SAFC last summer but his scoring prowess still wasn’t enough to get the team to the post season. He scored a remarkable team leading 8 goals in only 14 appearances. There has never been such a dynamic scorer like him suiting up for SAFC previously and he will be extremely difficult to replace.
That’s two of the three top scorers for SAFC who aren’t coming back. Needless to say, it will be a big challenge for Marcina to find the right guys who can bolster the SAFC attack for 2020.
In addition to that, one of the longest tenured SAFC players, Midfielder Pecka, was snatched up by North Carolina FC just before Christmas. Pecka never really turned up on the stat sheet but anyone who watched SAFC in the last few years understood his value on the field, and he was a team Captain. Pecka turns 31 this year and it could be a sign that the team wants an influx of youth into its holding Midfield. But these three player losses also show that the core of this team will be very different in 2020. Whether that means an improved roster remains to be seen, but big changes are here for SAFC.
Another loanee who will not be returning in 2020 is Defender Moises Hernandez. Hernandez actually had two loan stints with SAFC via FC Dallas, but he has made the move to Guatemalan side Antigua GFC. He was released by Dallas at the end of their season.
Finally, while we still don’t know if Keeper Matt Cardone will be returning for a 5th season, it is assured that SAFC will need a least one new GK all the same, as backup Jonathan Viscosi has left the club. Viscosi only made one league start in 2019 and wanted an opportunity to play. He’ll get that chance in Sweden with IK Sirius.
MLS PRE SEASON FRIENDLY
San Antonio FC will host Major League Soccer side FC Dallas in a preseason exhibition match at Toyota Field on Wednesday, Feb. 12 at 7:30 p.m. The match will be free for SAFC Season Ticket Members.
The match marks the second time the two clubs will face each other at Toyota Field after SAFC hosted FC Dallas in the fourth round of the 2018 U.S. Open Cup. San Antonio lost that match 1-0 on a goal from Tesho Akindele.
CHANGES OUT WEST
There will be some new names on the 2020 SAFC schedule this year and some that will not be there anymore. Chalk it up to the always changing landscape of the minor leagues. Tulsa Roughnecks are no more as they have rebranded to FC Tulsa, completely redesigning their crest and colors as well.
The Fresno Foxes will not be on the schedule as they are seeking a move to a new location. As a result, they will sit out 2020. And there is one new Western expansion team as San Diego Loyal enters the league. US Soccer legend Landon Donovan is part of the ownership group for that organization. Finally, Sacramento was announced as an MLS expansion team for 2022, leaving only 2 more USL seasons for the storied Republic FC.
US OPEN CUP
We’ll do a deeper dive into the US Open Cup at a later date, but here are the headline changes to the Cup Tournament for 2020:
- The Tournament moves up its start date to March 24th, two months earlier than before.
- USL teams, including SAFC, will enter the Tournament in the Second Round starting April 7th.
- 11 MLS teams will enter in the Third Round which starts April 21st. Previously all MLS teams had a bye until Round Four.
Stay tuned for more offseason updates as we lead up to the 2020 San Antonio FC season.
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PHOTOS: DARREN ABATE / INSTAGRAM: @PEAKACTION