It was another unsuccessful road outing for San Antonio FC last week as Real Monarchs scored three straight second half goals to negate SAFC’s first half lead and take all the points. It’s a short week for the team as they will host Tacoma Defiance on Friday night, so you can bet that one is already forgotten at the STAR Soccer Complex.
When these two teams got together last time they were known as Seattle Sounders II. After rebranding this offseason, they’re now the Tacoma Defiance. The name and the uniforms may be different, but they are still the same team that reports directly to Seattle Sounders in MLS. Interestingly enough, both matchups between these two teams will be on Friday nights this season. This week, and again in August.
There will be some Fiesta flair in the air as SAFC plays at home for the second time in three weeks during the city-wide holiday. This time officially, as the celebration formally kicked off last Thursday night. This is the first year that SAFC has been home during Fiesta season. And they’ll have the pre-match training tops to prove it.
For SAFC, they’ll looking to build off the positives, such as Brian Gomez’s first ever brace. He now has 2 goals and an assist in the last three matches. And Matt Cardone, despite giving up two PK goals and a third from open play, had his best statistical game of the season with six saves, including a couple of show stoppers.
SAFC midfielder Michael Lahoud led the club with a 94.1 percent passing accuracy on Saturday night. The SAFC captain has recorded a passing accuracy of at least 87 percent in all five of his matches with SAFC this season. And Midfielder Walter Restrepo earned his first start for SAFC in the match and recorded his first assist as well.
It is unknown if leading goal scorer Ever Guzman will be fit enough to return from an injury that kept him sidelined last week. However Midfielder Lance Laing returned to the lineup last week, so hopefully this is the beginning of his stay in the regular rotation.
Midfielder Billy Forbes was ever the optimist after the tough loss on Saturday and looking ahead to this week. “It’s one of those days where some stuff didn’t work for us in the second half, but we have to learn from it and go back and correct those mistakes. That’s the way soccer works sometimes. It will be great to be at home in front of our crowd (on Friday night). They will get us going and get our confidence back and hopefully we will get a win in front of our crowd and get going again”
One additional roster note for SAFC this week. 15-year-old SAFC Pro Academy product Leo Torres was called up into National Duty with the U.S. U-15 Squad. Torres will travel with the team to take part in the 2019 Torneo delle Nazioni in Gradisca, Italy. The team will face India on 4/28, Slovenia on 4/29, and Mexico on 4/30 as part of the Group Stage of the Tournament. Torres continues to be a tremendous source of pride for San Antonio and the SAFC organization. With Torres heading off to Italy, if no one comes off the injury list this week, SAFC will be forced to play with a 16-man lineup against Tacoma.
For Tacoma, there aren’t many positives so far in 2019. They are winless on the road, losing all four of their previous contests away from home. They have a whopping negative nineteen goal differential on the season. To put that number in perspective, the next lowest goal differential in USL Championship West is negative four from LA Galaxy II – a whopping 15 goal gap. They have only scored 4 goals total this entire season. There are only two teams in all of USL Championship with a lower number than that, and they’re both expansion teams – Hartford and Austin.
It gets worse. They are 34th in conversion rate across all of USL Championship. They have given up the most goals in all of USL Championship with 23 allowed. Five more than Hartford who is second on the list. Suffice to say, things have not been going well in the Pacific Northwest.
They have also been shutout in three straight games. Here are the scores from those games:
Orange County 4, Tacoma 0
Las Vegas 5, Tacoma 0
Phoenix 4, Tacoma 0
If you’re not quick at math, they have been out-scored 13-0 over their last three games.Ouch! In total, they have been shut out 5 times in 8 games. If you thought SAFC was struggling to score goals, well…. their output looks like a bonanza of goals from the Tacoma perspective. Even Five Thirty Eight's most recent global soccer rankings have Tacoma in dead last - ranked 648 out of 648 (SAFC is ranked 556 if you were curious). San Antonio has to win this one.
All that said, they are only one point beneath San Antonio FC on the table. That can’t make SAFC feel good about their own performances so far. Statistically, they are a far better team than Tacoma, but there haven’t been enough results to show for it. SAFC seems to be missing that final push in the back half of games to see them out and get results.
Some players to watch for Tacoma are Shandon Hopeau who leads the team in shots and assists and Joel Rydtsrand who leads the team in chances created. Tacoma has used three Keepers so far in 2019, with Trey Muse seeing the most action with six appearances and one clean sheet. Aleks Berkolds leads the way defensively with 29 clearances. Offensively, no one for Tacoma has more than one goal scored.
Bottom line, if San Antonio can’t get right in this game, it’s going to be a disappointed fan base and locker room come Saturday morning. There’s not too many must win April games, but this is a must win game simply because the opponent is SO bad. SAFC can not afford to let a slumping Tacoma team come into their house and steal points away from San Antonio. Not if they want to hang on to their post season dreams.
San Antonio FC is 8-1-2 (W-D-L) all-time in home games following a road loss. One of those eight came a few weeks ago against Las Vegas. It would behoove SAFC to make it nine on Friday night.
The Matchup (W-D-L)
Tacoma Defiance (2-0-6) at San Antonio FC (2-1-4)
Toyota Field, Friday April 26th, 2019
Kickoff 7:30pm Central Time
Current Form (W-D-L)
San Antonio FC - 2019 Home Record 2-1-1
Tacoma Defiance– 2019 Road Record 0-0-4
All Time History (W-D-L)
While Friday will be the first meeting between these two teams under the new Tacoma rebrand, as a franchise this marks meeting number seven between the two sides. San Antonio has dominated the series, winning 4 of the 6 previous matches. While named Seattle Sounders II, the franchise has never won at Toyota Field. All time, San Antonio leads the series 4-1-1.
4/26/19 @ SA
8/30/19 @ TAC
San Antonio defeated Seattle Sounders II by a score of 3-1 on September 29, 2018 at Toyota Field behind goals from Lance Laing, Ethan Bryant, and Maxi Rodriguez. Gonzalez scored for Seattle.
SAFC Wins If :
….they show up. Or, at least, they better. There aren’t many clear-cut cases of teams playing worse than SAFC but Tacoma is one of them. They’ve lost three straight, they’re winless on the road, and SAFC has been a terrific home team for most of their existence. On that basis alone, SAFC needs to get all three points on Friday night or it will be time for larger concerns.
Special Theme Night
Friday night is ‘Noche de Celebración’ at Toyota Field. The night will feature $1 beer and sodas and special concessions including chicken on a stick, turkey legs and corn in a cup. Fans can also enjoy $5 margaritas on the rocks and purchase flower crowns at the stadium.
SAFC players will wear special edition Noche de Celebración pregame tops which honor the iconic San Antonio Spurs retro tri-color uniforms. Fans can bid for signed, player-worn pregame tops at SAFC.givesmart.com, with proceeds benefiting Silver & Black Give Back. Replica pregame tops are also available for purchase now at The Soccer Factory and SAFCfanshop.com.
Following the match, SAFC will host the ‘Extra Time’ postgame party on the east concourse. The party will feature live music courtesy of Latino Hits 104.5, games and $1 beer and sodas.
Midfielder Brian Gomez was named to the USL Championship Team of the Week on Tuesday for his two goal performance against Real Monarchs last weekend.
PHOTOS AND IMAGES: SAN ANTONIO FC TWITTER