San Antonio FC will bring August to a close on Friday night as they begin the first of a two-match road trip. This couldn’t be a more polarizing road trip for SAFC as they will face the worst and best teams in the West in back to back games, starting with the Tacoma Defiance. It will be the first Friday night match for SAFC since June.
San Antonio is coming off their best win in team history, as they overwhelmed New Mexico United 5-0 after the expansion side went down to 10-men in the first half. There are so many players playing at a high level for SAFC right now, and none moreso than Midfielder Cristian Parano. Two braces in the last three matches. Six goals and three assists in the last eight games. He is unstoppable at the moment. Maybe his best trait is his humbleness. He preferred to highlight his teammates after the New Mexico performance.
“I’m thrilled to see my teammates score too, because we’re all improving week by week. I hope that we can continue like this. We have another match coming up and we need to focus on that so we can get closer to our objective, which is putting San Antonio as high (in the standings) as we can.”
Indeed, SAFC are improving all around. This has been a different team since Frank Lopez arrived. He added a goal against New Mexico marking his fifth in a SAFC uniform in only 7 total games. That makes 11 goals on the season for the talented striker. Going back to the second Austin game, which was one game before Lopez arrived, SAFC have now scored two or more goals in 7 of their last 8 games. They have only lost once in that stretch.
How big of a difference has Lopez been? In the nine games prior to Austin, SAFC scored 2 or more goals only twice, winning one single game in that stretch. What a turnaround.
Now SAFC enters the final weeks of the season back in playoff position. This might sound crazy, but they are only 2 points out of being top four in USL Championship West. If they can keep putting on performances like this, a top four finish for SAFC is not only possible, it’s very likely. But they’ll have to do it on the road, as six of the final nine games will be away from Toyota Field.
For Tacoma, there aren’t many positives so far in 2019. They are the worst team in the West and they are winless on the road. But don’t think this will be an automatic win for SAFC. At home, Tacoma are much better, and it’s where they have all four of their wins, including wins in two of their last four home games. So, if there is any air of caution when facing this team, that is it. Especially since SAFC hasn’t been stellar on the road in 2019, winning only twice.
Tacoma have a whopping negative 35 goal differential on the season. To put that number in perspective, the next lowest goal differential in USL Championship West is negative 23 from Tulsa Roughnecks – a whopping 12 goal gap. SAFC is plus 9 on the season – an incredible 44 goal differential gap. Tacoma have only scored 20 goals total this entire season, which is the worst in all of USL Championship.
It gets worse. They are second from the bottom in conversion rate across all of USL Championship. They have given up the most goals in all of USL Championship West with 55 allowed. Needless to say, it hasn’t been going well for the team from the Pacific Northwest. But alas, a lot of this is to be expected for a team who mainly exists as the feeder team of MLS’ Seattle Sounders.
The biggest player to watch for Tacoma has been Justin Dhillon whose 7 goals on the season lead the team by a wide margin. But Dhillon has spent first team time with MLS' Seatlle Sounders lately, so it may be unlikely that he appears for Tacoma vs SAFC. But don’t sleep on Shandon Hopeau who leads the team in shots and is second in chances created.
To no surprise for an MLS reserve team, Tacoma has used five Keepers so far in 2019, with Trey Muse seeing the most action with 15 appearances and two clean sheets, but it’s a guessing game predicting which keeper will start in net on Friday night. Aleks Berkolds far and away leads the way on the defensive end with 93 clearances; more than 40 clearances better than anyone else on the roster.
If all of this isn’t enough, they’re also getting San Antonio off a very short week. They hosted the best team in USL Championship West – and SAFC’s next opponent after Friday – Phoenix Rising on Tuesday night. Phoenix won their 16th straight match with a 4-2 decision.
Midfielder Walter Restrepo won’t be taking this match lightly. “We know Tacoma is a young team, but at the same time at any moment they could bring down players from their MLS team. Their place in the standings doesn’t necessarily reflect what we’re going to get, so we need to go in prepared and play our best to make sure we earn a result.”
San Antonio can’t afford to let three points fall away in this one. They are the better team and road woes or not, they can’t slip up, especially with a much tougher match against Phoenix looming next week. Anything other than three points will be a massive disappointment.
The Matchup (W-D-L)
San Antonio FC (9-7-9) at Tacoma Defiance (4-5-15)
Cheney Stadium, Friday August 30, 2019
Kickoff 9:00pm Central Time
Current Form (W-D-L)
San Antonio FC - 2019 Road Record 2-2-7
Tacoma Defiance– 2019 Home Record 4-2-6
All Time History (W-D-L)
Friday will be the second meeting between these two teams under the new Tacoma rebrand, but as a franchise this marks meeting number eight between the two sides. San Antonio has dominated the series, winning 5 of the 7 previous matches. All time, San Antonio leads the series 5-1-1.
4/26/19 @ SA W, 3-0
8/30/19 @ TAC
San Antonio defeated Tacoma 3-0 back in April at Toyota Field lead by a first half brace from Jack Barmby. Bradford Jamieson IV opened the scoring for SAFC in the 9th minute and it was more or less smooth sailing from there.
Here are the Match Highlights:
SAFC Wins If :
….they show up. Or, at least, they should. There aren’t many clear-cut cases of teams playing as poorly as Tacoma in 2019, but that is what is in front of them. On that basis alone, SAFC needs to get all three points on Friday night.
On Monday it was announced that Midfielder Ethan Bryant was leaving SAFC on a permanent move to Belgium club K.S.V. Roeselare. Bryant ends his time at San Antonio FC with 16 USL Championship appearances, playing 1,225 minutes while notching two goals and three assists. Bryant was identified by San Antonio FC after participating in the club’s Elite Training Program prior to being added to the first-team roster in February 2018. The midfielder made his debut for SAFC at age 16, which made him the youngest SAFC player to make a competitive appearance at that time.
His final appearance for the club came on July 3rd in a 3-0 win over Texas rivals Austin Bold.
Here is the tribute video the team released along with the news:
On Tuesday, Midfielder Cristian Parano was named as USL Championship Player of the Week. It's the second time he has won the honor in a three week span. He becomes the first SAFC player to ever win the honor multiple times, and he seems a shoe-in for Player of the Month. Parano had 2 goals and 2 assists against New Mexico United.
On Tuesday USL Championship announced a three year Rights Agreement with ESPN to continue as the league's broadcast partner. The deal extends through the 2022 season. The new agreement will see a three-fold increase in games televised annually on ESPN Network stations, including the addition of Spanish language telecasts on ESPN Deportes. The league will also continue coverage on ESPN+, the direct to consumer streaming video service. ESPN+ crossed 2 million subscribers in under one year.
PHOTOS: DARREN ABATE / INSTAGRAM: @PEAKACTION
IMAGES: SAN ANTONIO FC TWITTER