San Antonio FC starts a two-match home stand on Wednesday night as they welcome El Paso to Toyota Field for the first time in USL Championship play. El Paso did make a visit to Toyota Field in February for a Pre-Season affair, but this time it will be for real.
Not only is it the first official meeting between the two clubs, the match also doubles as a Copa Tejas match – obviously, the first one between these two teams. El Paso is also the last team on the schedule that San Antonio will play for the first time in 2019. And they won’t have to wait long for the rematch as these two teams will meet again in just three weeks.
With San Antonio playing back to back Copa Tejas matches (they’ll welcome Austin to town the following Wednesday) and with SAFC being the only team in Copa Tejas without a result so far, if they want to make a move at lifting the Cup in its inaugural year, they’ll need to do it in these two matches. Two wins would get them right back in the thick of the trophy hunt.
On the “worst case scenario” side of things, with two losses in these two games, San Antonio FC would be eliminated from winning Copa Tejas with two matches to play. It would be a shame if the re-match between these two teams in three short weeks is meaningless for SAFC in Copa Tejas play.
Here’s a look at the current Copa Tejas standings going into the match on Wednesday night.
For San Antonio, one of the biggest themes to correlate with their road struggles is starting to be their inability to avoid penalties on the road. It bit them at Real Monarchs and it bit them again the last two road games.
As we near the midway point of the USL Championship season, what has been a very tight Western Table for most of the first half is starting to see some separation now, and San Antonio is on the cusp of getting left behind as they have dropped 23 of 24 possible road points on the season. If even two of those losses had been wins, it would be a completely different story for SAFC.
Ifs and buts, and all of that.
Billy Forbes was left with little explanation after Friday’s loss in Fresno but knows all they can do now is look ahead. "This was a game that we felt we should've won, but sometimes things happen in soccer. We lost this one and now we're facing a quick turnaround, so we have to focus on that."
There were a few bright spots for SAFC over the weekend. Cristian Parano scored his first goal of the season, Jose Gallegos recorded his first assist, and Bradford Jamieson IV scored his first goal since April. It would not be a bad thing if these players started to heat up at the same time. On the flip side, Brian Gomez was lost early to injury and it's possible he might be out for an extended period.
San Antonio only has one league win in their last eight games. If that doesn’t turn around fast, SAFC will find themselves out of contention well before the season concludes.
El Paso comes into this match after a 1-0 loss at home against Las Vegas on Saturday night. The match snapped a three-game winning streak. Overall, it was their first loss in their last ten matches. Their previous loss was all the way back on April 13th against the top team in the West, Phoenix Rising. A truly incredible run of games that is finally over. Their six wins during that streak are two more than SAFC has all season long. It was the 4th time that El Paso has been shut out this season.
Despite the result, El Paso remains one of the surprise stories of 2019 as they, along with fellow newcomers New Mexico United, have both been top four teams in the West for most of the season. Even newcomers Austin Bold are also hovering around playoff position, which only adds salt in the wound for a struggling SAFC side; seeing the two brand new Texas teams both off to hot starts.
One of the biggest reasons that El Paso is off to their fast start is that they are one of the few teams in USL Championship West that do not struggle on the road. They have yet to lose in 6 road games. That should serve as a big warning flag for SAFC as they prepare for this one. San Antonio does play well at home – they’ve only lost once in eight games – but something will have to give in this matchup.
In addition to their strong play on the field, El Paso has been doing positive things off the field as well, like this:
On the pitch for El Paso, it all starts with star Forward Jerome Kiesewetter who has 10 goals on the season, good for second place in all of USL Championship. And twice as many goals as SAFC’s scoring leader Ever Guzman. Forward Omar Selgado and Midfielder Sebastian Contreras are each tied with the team lead with 4 assists.
El Paso are strong at both ends of the field. In goal for Locomotive, it’s all about Logan Ketterer. He has appeared in all 15 of El Paso’s matches and has 7 clean sheets, good for third in the league in that category. He has only surrendered 13 goals on the year – less than 1 per game. The 13 goals surrendered by El Paso is the best in USL Championship West. Not a good proposition for SAFC who is 5th from the bottom in total goals scored.
On defense, two Defenders have more than 40 clearances on the season, helping to pave the way for their strong overall performances. Defenders Mechack Jerome (45) and Chiro N’Toko (43) have been getting it done for El Paso’s back line. But SAFC will catch a small break in that Jerome is off representing Haiti in the Gold Cup and will not be available for the match on Wednesday night.
San Antonio FC faces a tall task on Wednesday night against one of USL’s best, but they need to deliver on two fronts. San Antonio will be back at home and they have one extra day of rest. They need to capitalize on that advantage and get themselves back on track in the league, and back into the Copa Tejas hunt. It’s now or never if they want to get their hands on the regional trophy recognizing the best team in Texas.
The Matchup (W-D-L)
El Paso Locomotive (7-5-3) at San Antonio FC (4-4-8)
Toyota Field, Wednesday June 26th, 2019
Kickoff 7:30pm Central Time
Current Form (W-D-L)
San Antonio FC - 2019 Home Record 4-3-1
El Paso Locomotive – 2019 Road Record 3-3-0
All Time History (W-D-L)
This will be the first meeting between these two clubs.
6/26/19 @ SA
7/17/19 @ ELP
This is the first meeting between these two teams, but here are the highlights of El Paso’s last win; a 2-0 victory over Tulsa on June 15th.
On Monday, San Antonio FC announced a third kit design for the 2019 season. The team will debut them on the field Wednesday night against El Paso. Fans can purchase the new jersey at the match, or starting Thursday at Soccer Factory.
SAFC Wins If :
…if they can maintain their home form against one of the best road teams in the West and take advantage of an extra day of rest.
PHOTOS: DARREN ABATE / INSTAGRAM @PEAKACTION
IMAGES: SAN ANTONIO FC TWITTER