New look San Antonio FC will kick off their 2019 campaign on Saturday night at Toyota Field against defending USL Championship Western Conference Champions Phoenix Rising FC. Phoenix lost in the USL Cup to Louisville last Fall. Only 7 players (technically only 6 now that Alex Bruce has been sent out on loan) return to SAFC from 2018. That group is led by Striker Ever Guzman, Midfielders Lance Laing and Rafa Castillo and GK Matt Cardone. Among the new additions for San Antonio are Midfielder Billy Forbes who returns to San Antonio FC for his second stint with the team after spending one season in Phoenix.
Forbes will no doubt be looking to impress against his former team and he reflected that exact sentiment this week, saying “I can’t wait. I’m a little nervous because of the excitement but I know when gameday comes, the nerves will settle and we’re going to go out there and play our game. I’m really excited for the new USL Championship season and hopefully we start it with a bang.”
Forbes also noted that the atmosphere at Toyota Field on opening night could definitely be to their advantage, adding “Sometimes with games as competitive as this weekend’s will be, it’s the fans who really push us to get the result. I know they’ll be loud and they’ll make it difficult for our opponent, so I really can’t wait for that.”
Midfielder Walter Restrepo was also a new addition to the team, making four former San Antonio Scorpions as part of the 2019 SAFC roster (Castillo, Restrepo, Cardone, Forbes) as well as former Scorpions Manager Alen Marcina who is now an Assistant Coach on Manager Darren Powell’s coaching staff.
Speaking of Powell, he too was excited about opening the season at home for the first time, saying “It’s the first time we’ve had the chance to do that and to have the first outing in front of our home fans is always going to be beneficial and positive because they get behind our team and it’s always fun to play at Toyota Field.”
Like Forbes, Powell knows the impact the fans can have on the game and he was quick to point it out, adding “It’s been a while since we played at our stadium, but any time you step into it the atmosphere is amazing. Our fans really push us on and make it a difficult place to play for opponents, so we’re looking forward to playing in front of them and getting a positive result together. At the end of the day, we want to send our supporters home with a smile on their faces.”
For the visitors, Phoenix returns 13 players in 2019 including former SAFC player Jason Johnson and dangerous striker Solomon Asante. Those two combined for 23 goals last season. Notable departures include international sensation Didier Drogba who retired and leading scorer Chris Cortez who moved overseas to Thailand. Cortez led the team with 19 goals last season and is obviously a huge loss. Former SAFC player Devin Vega is also still with Phoenix. Notable additions for Phoenix include Joey Calistri from St Louis FC, Jose Aguinaga from NY Red Bulls II, Junior Flemmings from Tampa Bay Rowdies and former Columbus Crew forward Adam Jahn. Time will tell if Phoenix can remain as dynamic as they were last season without their leading scorer and without the sizzle of Drogba. Phoenix Rising FC is also still in the hunt for MLS expansion, so expect that to dominate in their off-field news in 2019.
The Matchup (W-D-L)
Phoenix Rising FC (0-0-0) at San Antonio FC (0-0-0)
Toyota Field, Saturday March 9th, 2019
Kickoff 7:30pm Central Time
Current Form (W-D-L)
San Antonio FC - 2019 Home Record 0-0-0
Phoenix Rising FC – 2019 Road Record 0-0-0
All Time History (W-D-L)
Saturday will mark the eighth meeting between these two franchises. Since re-branding to Phoenix Rising FC in 2017, San Antonio FC is 3-0-1 against them including two wins at Toyota Field. Phoenix has never defeated SAFC at Toyota Field. All time SAFC is 4-1-2 against Phoenix.
3/9/19 @ SA
9/7/19 @ PHX
San Antonio FC defeated Phoenix Rising FC on September 8, 2018 at Toyota Field 3-2 behind goals from Cyprian Hedrick, Ever Guzman and a PK from Lance Laing. Chris Cortez scored for the visitors in the 87th minute to make things interesting down the stretch as SA’s lead was cut to one, but SAFC was able to hang on in the closing minutes for victory. Here are the match highlights:
SAFC Wins If : San Antonio FC will need their new look defensive back line to keep big threat returners Jason Johnson, Soloman Asante, and former SAFC player Devin Vega in check. The new look offense of Guzman, Laing, Forbes and Barmby will need to deliver on their goal scoring capabilities.
IMAGES: SAN ANTONIO FC TWITTER, PHOENIX RISING FC TWITTER