San Antonio FC returns to Toyota Field this weekend to face Real Monarchs for the first of two straight home games and the beginning of a stretch where four of their next five will be at home.
Last time these two teams met it was a tale of two halves. San Antonio dominated the opening 45 minutes thanks to a brace from Brain Gomez. But the defense unraveled in the second half, surrendering two penalties and three goals overall in the bitter 3-2 defeat.
Although maybe not quite that same “bitter” feeling, the current pulse of SAFC might be “disappointed” as they arrive into this match. In second half added time on Saturday Night Frank Lopez appeared to score the match winner in dramatic fashion, only to have it pulled back for offside. And that was after Lopez missed out on a golden 1 on 1 breakaway opportunity earlier in the half. Instead of the win, they had to settle for the road point.
Still, SAFC has to feel good about their latest road trip. Getting 4 of 6 points on four days work is a definite success for a team who hadn’t won on the road at all, and had lost 7 times on the road, prior to last week. And the Lopez signing has been a smashing success through two games. A brace, a match winner, and inches away … twice … from a second match winner in a row. Not a bad start for the Galaxy II player on loan to SAFC for the rest of 2019. Lopez now has eight total goals in 2019, good for 15th in USL Championship and 11th in the West. Lopez was also named to USL Championship Team of the Week on Tuesday for his El Paso performance.
Matt Cardone and Billy Forbes also shined on the road trip. Cardone now has 59 saves on the season, good for second in USL Championship. Forbes has 3 assists in his last five matches and now has 12 in a SAFC uniform – the most in team history.
And now they have an opportunity to take a huge leap in the standings as they will be home for 4 of the next 5. In ten league matches, SAFC has only been defeated at home once in 2019. If they can maintain that incredibly strong home form over this stretch of games, they should find themselves very much in the playoff discussion as September arrives. As this stretch begins, they are only 5 points out of the top four. They could climb the standings in a hurry if things go really well.
Manager Darren Powell feels the shift. "I think the team is getting better week in and week out and we're gathering some momentum. We've lost one in our last seven and we've put good results together, so we have to keep that momentum going and the guys have to keep being committed on their performances. We're really pleased with everybody's intensity this week and we look forward to continuing that (against Real Monarchs)"
As good as SAFC has been recently – Monarchs have been even better. They are unbeaten in 5 straight games, including a recent stretch that saw them win four straight games. And they have been getting stronger on the road, too. After starting the season losing 4 of their first 6 road games, they have suddenly won two of three as they make their only appearance at Toyota Field in 2019.
Monarchs remain one of the top goal scoring threats in all of USL Championship, currently tied for 4th across the entire league with 37 goals scored. They have conceded 29 goals which is one less than the 28 that San Antonio has allowed.
Monarchs are led in goal scoring by two dynamic players; Forward Douglas Martinez (9) and Midfielder Maikel Chang (8). Martinez is also their lead assist man with six. Also, watch out for Jack Blake, who recently returned to the lineup for Monarchs after a lengthy injury. He has 5 goals in 10 appearances.
Their number one Goal Keeper, David Ochoa, has three clean sheets on the season, but only nine total appearances. Defensively they are paced by Konrad Plewa and his 55 clearances.
Monarchs have also had some coaching turmoil for the second straight season. And for the second straight season it’s Jamison Olave to the rescue. He was named as interim Manager on July 1st after Martin Vaquez resigned his position. This follows last season when Olave was named interim manager after Mark Briggs resigned in the face of domestic abuse allegations.
After a long struggle to start the season, SAFC suddenly look like a team ready to make a run. With the schedule turning in their favor, now is the time for San Antonio to make their move. It can start with some payback to a Monarchs team they dominated for 45 minutes last time out before surrendering their advantage.
Monarchs have never won at Toyota Field. San Antonio would do best to keep that streak going.
The Matchup (W-D-L)
Real Monarchs (8-4-6) at San Antonio FC (6-6-8)
Toyota Field, Saturday July 27th, 2019
Kickoff 7:30pm Central Time
Current Form (W-D-L)
San Antonio FC - 2019 Home Record 5-4-1
Real Monarchs SLC– 2019 Road Record 2-3-4
All Time History (W-D-L)
Saturday will mark the 7th meeting between these two teams. San Antonio has done well in the series overall. San Antonio are 3-1-2 vs Monarchs all time, including 1-1-0 at Toyota Field.
4/20/19 @ SLC L, 2-3
7/27/19 @ SA
San Antonio dropped a 3-2 decision to the Monarchs back in April. SAFC roared out to a 2-0 lead thanks to a Brian Gomez brace in just 17 minutes. SAFC were done in by two second half penalty calls that paved the way for the Monarchs comeback.
Here are the match Highlights:
SAFC Wins If :
…. If SAFC, and in particular Frank Lopez, can build on their recent road trip and get some payback on an opponent who has never won at Toyota Field.
Frank Lopez was named to USL Championship Team of the Week for his performance against El Paso in which he scored a brace.
The SAFC Pro Academy was named Coaching Staff of the Year for the Central Region-Boys Team by the US Soccer Developmental Academy.
PHOTOS: DARREN ABATE/ INSTAGRAM: @PEAKACTION
IMAGES: SAN ANTONIO FC TWITTER