This is the third and final installment of our three part position overview of the 2019 SAFC roster. Obviously, games can not be won without goals. It's largely up to this group - the Forwards - to provide them.
Forward will once again be a position of keen interest for San Antonio FC fans in 2019. Goal scoring has been an issue for SAFC for their entire history. Not coincidentally, San Antonio has failed to qualify for the playoffs in two of their first three seasons. In their debut season in 2016 they only managed 36 goals. And even in 2017 when the offense had real flashes of dynamic scoring, SAFC still failed to have a player finish top 20 in scoring league wide. They’ve never had a robust scoring year from any one player when compared to the overall goal scoring leaders in USL year to year.
Although they finished second in the West in 2017, there were still seven teams in the Conference that season who scored more goals than SAFC's forty five. Last season, San Antonio put up forty five goals for the second straight year. Granted, they had two more games to work with than the 2017 team. It was the poor defense that was San Antonio's real undoing last season, giving up twice as many goals as the lauded 2017 team. Still, it's hard to ignore that only one Western playoff participant last year had fewer goals than San Antonio (St Louis, 44).
Might this be the season a dynamic scorer emerges? If so, unlike much of the rest of the roster, it will probably be with a familiar couple of players.
But first, let's recap who won't be returning at the position. Cesar Elizondo headlines the list of departing players for the Forwards. One of the last original SAFC players remaining, and also a former San Antonio Scorpions (NASL) player, Elizondo has returned to the same team he played for after his Scorpions stint ended in 2015 – Perez Zeledon in Costa Rica. Elizondo’s time with SAFC will be remembered just as much for how often he was on the injury list as he was for goal scoring.
Kyle Murphy came to SAFC from Texas rivals RGV FC and did not live up to the same goal scoring levels he had in the valley, only tallying one goal with San Antonio. It was a disappointing season and he will not return. Murphy has signed with USL Championship newcomer Loudoun United, the new DC United affiliate.
Mike Seth was listed as a Forward but found himself playing just as much Defense for the silver and black as he did on the opposite end of the pitch. He never lived up to the scoring threat that he was with Colorado Switchbacks in 2015-16 and just couldn’t find an offensive groove with SAFC. Whether that was on him or how he was used by the coaching staff is up for some debate. In an attempt to recapture that scoring magic, he has returned to the Switchbacks in 2019.
Returning for SAFC in 2019, it definitely begins with Ever Guzman. Guzman first arrived in San Antonio in 2017 and much like Lance Laing last season, he began with a flurry of goals making an instant impact. Many thought a full season with SAFC would lead to even bigger production from the Mexican International. It ended up being a mixed bag for Guzman in 2018. It's true that he was slowed by an unfortunate injury in Las Vegas that kept him sidelined for several games, but he also started the season very slowly out of the gate, scoring just once in the first seven games. Ironically, he was injured on the goal scoring play. Upon returning from injury after missing nearly 2 months, he finally seemed to hit his stride. At one point he scored 7 goals in a 10 game stretch. That’s the same offensive flash he showcased at the end of 2017, and one that San Antonio FC hopes he can finally put together for a full season.
Despite not meeting its full potential, Guzman's season was still a successful one. He set a single season scoring record for SAFC with 11 goals, passing teammate Billy Forbes on the team record sheet. The 11 goals tied Guzman for 23rd in USL scoring last season and 15th in the Western Conference. He will begin 2018 as the all-time scoring leader for San Antonio FC with 15 goals. If he can build on what went right last year and stay on the pitch it could be a big season for Guzman.
Also returning is young phenom Alex Bruce. Alex made his first start in May after the Guzman injury. He scored in that match against Fresno, which began a nice stretch of games where he scored three goals in six appearances, and he seemed to be off and running for the season. But he would only make three more starts in 2018. By the end of August he found himself not only not playing, but not even in the match day eighteen. It was a surprising change and many wondered if he would return to SAFC for another season. Hopefully this is a good sign that SAFC is willing to be patient with the 20 year old and that he can translate what he learned from 2018 into a stronger 2019. He shows a lot of promise and he won over a lot of fans with his quick start, and with this strike, which was runner up for USL Goal of the Year in 2018 as voted on by the fans:
The last piece of the 2019 Striker puzzle comes via a loan, but not the one SAFC fans expected a few weeks ago. SAFC had added Jahir Barraza for 2019 via loan with FC Atlas of Liga MX. The 28 year old had featured more than 70 times in ten years for his parent club but was perhaps best known for his time with Necaxa in 2015-16 when he scored 14 goals. Unfortunately, he will not play for SAFC in 2019 after all, as the loan was mutually ended between player and club on the same day that SAFC announced a different loan.
Instead, joining San Antonio FC for 2019 via LA Galaxy of Major League Soccer is 22 year old Bradford Jamieson IV. Jamieson IV brings quality experience at both the MLS and USL levels, which should be very pleasing to the SAFC staff. Jamieson IV has made 61 appearances in all competitions with the senior team, scoring four goals. In addition, he has played in 57 games with LA Galaxy II in the USL Championship, scoring 10 total goals. He has been with the Galaxy since 2014. Typically, loaned players aren't meant for the bench so it will be interesting to see how his playing time compares with Bruce, in particular, as the season plays out.
One quick bonus mention - keep an eye out for Zach Wright. The former RGV FC man is a trailaist with SAFC currently, and he scored an impressive goal in open space against FC Dallas. Considering that performance plus the recent string of players to move from RGV FC to SAFC in the last two seasons and it wouldn't be a shock to see that trailist designation turn into a contracted one for 2019.
So far it has been Guzman singled out alone at the top of SAFC's formation in Pre Season games but don't be surprised if we see striker pairings. Either with one of his fellow Forwards or with some of the dynamic Midfielders such as Laing or Forbes. Neither of those two players are shy about pushing the line forward on the wings and they both can finish with quality.
Seeing another Forward added to the roster will not be a surprise, if it occurs. SAFC carried five players at the position for most of last season. But if this is the final group, do you think it’s enough to carry SAFC to a successful season in 2019? Leave us your comments about the Forwards below.
Bradford Jamieson IV
Jahir Barraza (2019 loan contract ended mutually)
Cesar Elizondo (Perez Zeledon)
Kyle Murphy (Loudoun United)
Mike Seth (Colorado Switchbacks)
IMAGES: SAN ANTONIO FC TWITTER