San Antonio FC will play the last game of a two-match road trip this Saturday night when they travel to take on the top team in USL Championship West Phoenix Rising. It’s also the second road game in a period of the schedule where they will play 4 out of 5 matches away from home, stretching all the way until September 25th.
The first game of the road trip went pretty horribly. SAFC were thoroughly outplayed in a 5-1 thumping at the hands of the worst team in USL Championship West, Tacoma Defiance. The loss once again puts SAFC on the outside looking in for playoff positioning. Now, SAFC will face the best team in USL Championship West.
San Antonio will have their hands full with one of the best USL teams that we have witnessed in the four years of SAFC’s existence. Maybe the best, period. Phoenix is having a historic run. They have won 17 straight games, which is not only a USL record, it’s a record in all of U.S. Pro Soccer. Mighty impressive, to be sure. The last time Phoenix tasted defeat was on May 4th when they lost to Orange County, 2-1.
One player who surprisingly won't be involved in this match is Midfielder Billy Forbes. Forbes was expecting to make his return to Phoenix after playing with the Rising in 2018, but that won't happen now. San Antonio FC announced they released Forbes from the team on Wednesday. Forbes also deleted all of his social media accounts, leaving fans to wonder how or why it all went wrong. On the field, Forbes never lived up to the 2017 season when he lead SAFC in Goals (10) and Assists (9). Forbes will finish 2019 with 3 Goals and 3 Assists for SAFC. His last goal came against Real Monarchs in a 3-1 SAFC win back in July.
SAFC will need to refocus as a team now that they have seen two player departures in two weeks. Midfielder Pecka knows last week was a missed opportunity on the field. "It was a bad result and we need to learn and move past it. We lost for ourselves once again, we weren't focused and we let them score early, then we tried to press and they scored again. None of the players are happy with our performance because we came out with the intent to earn three points."
The last time these two teams got together was way back on Opening Night 2019 in March. Amer Didic was still the focal point of the new look SAFC defense, Lance Laing was healthy and looked to be a key player for the 2019 attack, and Frank Lopez was still playing in Los Angeles. How quickly times can change over the course of a USL season.
Everywhere you look on the field, Phoenix is playing with excellence. And it shows on the stat sheets. They have the most goals in all of USL Championship with 71. That’s 18 more goals than the second best team in the West, Reno 1868 FC. Their conversion rate is 20%; tied for best in USL Championship West. They have the most clean sheets in USL Championship with 12. They have only conceded 25 goals, best in USL Championship West.
Individually, Soloman Asante is on track to win the 2019 Golden Boot, with 20 goals and counting. Asante also leads the league with 14 assists. It has been a truly special season for the Ghanaian striker. A clear MVP campaign.
But he isn’t alone in quality attacking options for Rising FC. Adam Jahn and Junior Flemings are also top 10 scorers league wide, scoring 14 and 11 goals respectively. The SAFC defense might need eyes in the back of their heads to account for all of the talent across Phoenix’s attack.
Former SAFC player Jason Johnson has three goals this season, and none that hurt more for SAFC than when he tied the game in added time in the season opener at Toyota Field, robbing San Antonio of two more points that were nearly theirs.
Between the pipes, Phoenix is just as strong. Keeper Zac Lubin leads the league with 12 clean sheets and he is top ten in saves with 63. SAFC Keeper Matt Cardone has 70 saves currently, good for third place. Joseph Farrell leads the defense with 72 clearances.
If all of that wasn’t enough, Phoenix are unbeaten at home through thirteen games, winning ten of them. This will be the stiffest road test that SAFC has faced all season. The odds will be heavily stacked against them. A win is always the goal, and SAFC would love to be the team to end Rising’s historic run. But SAFC would probably be thrilled to get a point out in the desert.
The Matchup (W-D-L)
San Antonio FC (9-7-10) at Phoenix Rising FC (19-5-2)
Casino Arizona Field, Saturday September 7th, 2019
Kickoff 9:30pm Central Time
Current Form (W-D-L)
San Antonio FC - 2019 Road Record 2-2-8
Phoenix Rising FC – 2019 Home Record 10-3-0
All Time History (W-D-L)
Saturday will mark the ninth meeting between these two franchises. Since rebranding to Phoenix Rising FC in 2017, San Antonio FC is 3-1-1 against them. San Antonio is 1-0-2 on the road in the series.
All time SAFC leads the series 4-2-2.
3/9/19 @ SA DRAW, 3-3
9/7/19 @ PHX
San Antonio FC and Phoenix played to a dramatic 3-3 draw in the 2019 season opener for both teams on March 9th. Ever Guzman and Billy Forbes scored for SAFC in the first half; Forbes marking his return to San Antonio with a goal against his old team. It looked to be a story book ending when an Adam Jahn own-goal gave San Antonio a 3-2 lead in the 80th minute, but former SAFC striker Jason Johnson would spoil the party at 90’ +3 as both teams shared a point.
Here are the match highlights:
SAFC Wins If…
…. If they can do what the rest of the league hasn’t been able to do; win a game in Phoenix. It will be the biggest challenge for SAFC all season long. They’ll need to be a different team than the one that showed up against Tacoma if they hope to have any realistic chance of leaving with points.
Copa Tejas crowned its first ever winner on Sunday night when Austin Bold FC defeated RGV FC 3-0. The win gave the expansion side enough points to claim the trophy recognizing the best USL Championship team in Texas. SAFC will finish second in the competition thanks to a better goal differential than RGV FC.
PHOTOS: DARREN ABATE / INSTAGRAM: @PEAKACTION
IMAGES: SAN ANTONIO FC TWITTER