San Antonio will welcome New Mexico United to Toyota Field for the first time ever this Saturday night as SAFC wraps up a two-match home stand. It’ll be an important one for SAFC as the standings remain tight. One win is the difference between 12th place and being as high as 6th in the West standings.
Then, there is this. After Saturday, SAFC only has 3 home games remaining and 6 on the road. The fact that they have only earned one point out of their last two home games has to be hugely disappointing for a team that has been tough to beat at home.
None moreso than last week when they blew a 2-goal lead and a one-man advantage to RGV in the final 15 minutes of the match. Dropping those two crucial points knocked them out of playoff position and all but wrecked their chances at a Copa Tejas title, the regional tournament to crown the best Texas team in USL Championship.
Set pieces have really hurt SAFC in the last few games. Midfielder Michael LaHoud addressed their struggles after the RGV game. “Whether it’s set pieces, or momentum, or small decisions that can make or break a game, when we’re on the field we’re all men. There’s not much more room for growing pains or lessons learned. The good news is there’s plenty more soccer to play, but we can’t keep saying that. We still have home advantage against a good team (next week), but a team that is beatable. We have all to play for.”
Still, there are positive things happening for SAFC too. Midfielder Jack Barmby has scored a goal in three straight games. He has 7 league goals (8 counting Open Cup) which are the most in a SAFC uniform in 2019. Cristian Parano has scored 5 goals in the last nine games. And Walter Restrepo has two assists in the last two games, and he is now the team leader in Assists with four. Initially he was credited with a second assist against Reno, but a stat correction took one away. Regardless, SAFC will need all of their top performers playing to expectations if they want to win this week.
New Mexico United continues a strong debut campaign. They have slipped a little bit in recent weeks, but this is still a dangerous team. And they are one of the best road teams in USL West, earning 17 points out of 14 games; good for half of their overall point total. By comparison, SAFC has 8 road points.
Like SAFC, New Mexico played to a 2-2 draw at home last week against LA Galaxy II. They continue to be an amazing story in their crowd support as well, easily leading all of USL Championship in their debut season with an average of over 13,000 fans per home game. They pulled in over 15,000 over the weekend. If you were curious, SAFC has slipped to 10th this year with a 6,500 average. This after regularly being at or near top 5 in league attendance while the MLS chase was still ongoing. SAFC remains well above the league average however, which is currently 4,300.
On the field, New Mexico United will be a big test for the SAFC defense. They are the 6th best scoring team in all of USL Championship with 43 goals and they are tied for third best in all of USL in their conversion rate, which is 20% (SAFC is 21st). Kevaughn Frater, along with fellow Forward Santiago Moar, continue to have standout goal scoring seasons. Frater has 13, which has him in third place league wide. Moar has 10. Not too shabby, either. Midfielder Chris Wehan leads the team with 5 assists. Wehan is a scorer as well, as SAFC will remember. He scored twice when they handed SAFC a 3-0 defeat earlier this season.
Goal Keeper Cody Mizell is the man between the pipes for New Mexico. He has 64 saves in 23 appearances and three clean sheets.
Defenders Justin Schmidt and Rashid Tetteh lead the way in clearances with 85 and 72 respectively.
With only four home games remaining in the season including Saturday night, San Antonio FC can’t afford to squander more points at home. More missed opportunities could see them closely miss out on a playoff spot like in 2016 and 2018. A win would go a long way towards avoiding the same fate for a third time.
The Matchup (W-D-L)
New Mexico United (8-10-6) at San Antonio FC (8-7-9)
Toyota Field, Saturday August 24, 2019
Kickoff 7:30pm Central Time
Current Form (W-D-L)
San Antonio FC – 2019 Home Record 6-5-2
New Mexico United– 2019 Road Record 4-5-5
All Time History (W-D-L)
Saturday will mark the first ever meeting between these teams at Toyota Field and only the second overall. SAFC trails the series 0-0-1.
5/5/19 @ N MEX, L 0-3
8/24/19 @ SA
It was all New Mexico United the first time these teams matched up back on Cinco De Mayo. Christopher Wehan scored a brace in a four-minute span in the second half to put the match out of reach.
Here are the match highlights:
SAFC Wins If :
….if they can contain two of the most dynamic scorers in USL Championship and if they can regain their home confidence after a disastrous second half last week.
PHOTOS: DARREN ABATE / INSTAGRAM: @PEAKACTION
IMAGES: SAN ANTONIO FC TWITTER