San Antonio FC returns to Toyota Field this week for their final home stand of the 2020 regular season as they will face Austin for the third time this year on Wednesday night. They’ll play Austin one more time after Wednesday, on the road in the regular season finale in early October. SAFC faces a quick turnaround this week as they’ll wrap their home schedule against OKC Energy just three days after the Austin match, on Saturday night.
San Antonio enters the match with an 11-point lead over FC Tulsa in Group D, but they should come into this match with some extra fire. That’s because their unbeaten season came to a crashing halt in El Paso over the weekend, losing 2-1 off a late own-goal from Mitchell Taintor. Instead of celebrating a playoff birth with a victory in West Texas, they will need to refocus as the team tastes defeat for the first time in 2020.
Manager Alen Marcina was left focused on what they missed after the match. “We stressed it all week and we experienced it tonight, but it’s about details. The details cost us late and we will learn from this game. There were a lot of positives, and we will grow and continue to get better.”
The loss shines light on another aspect of SAFC’s season. They are playing in the weakest Group in all of USL Championship, and it isn’t close. SAFC has more wins (8) than the entire rest of the Group combined (7 wins from 4 teams). Every other Group in the league has at least two teams with 6 or more wins. With SAFC having only played two games out of the Group all season, and one of those occurring 6 months ago pre-pandemic, it brings larger attention to the most recent game, especially because of the result. Now they might have to guard against a different kind of foe.
A hint of doubt.
Is this team as strong as they have appeared or are they simply benefiting from a weak collection of opponents? For their part, San Antonio FC will very much get to answer that question on the field. But fair or not, they may not be able to silence the critics until the playoffs arrive. And in a twist of irony, Group D is paired with Group C in the opening two rounds of the Western Playoffs. There's a fairly decent chance SAFC could get a second crack at El Paso when the stakes are much higher.
The second half against El Paso saw the SAFC debut of their newest player, 19-year old Forward Jordan Perruzza on loan from Toronto FC in MLS. He played the final 30 minutes of the match and a had a rough debut. He earned one Yellow Card and arguably could have been sent off with a second Yellow Card, but he was spared by the Referee. He recorded two shots in the match.
On the more positive side of things, Luis Solignac added to his team leading Goal tally by scoring his second penalty kick of the season. The goal was Solignac’s 7th of the year. He is now tied for 6th place in goals scored across all of USL Championship.
Austin has not played since September 8th. Their last scheduled match was supposed to be over the weekend away to RGV-FC but the game was postponed out of an abundance of caution related to a positive Covid-19 test in the RGV organization.
Austin has played in four straight draws, the last two back to back against Tulsa. Those results went a long way towards helping SAFC solidify their place at the top of Group D. Austin are on a run of eight straight unbeaten games overall, so they have been playing pretty good football over the last month. Their last defeat? It was against SAFC back on August 1st.
Austin is locked in battle with FC Tulsa for the second and final playoff spot from Group D. They are one point behind Tulsa but they have a game in hand.
As always with Austin, there’s familiar faces for San Antonio fans. Former SAFC man Billy Forbes has emerged as the Goal scoring leader for Austin, scoring 6 goals this season. That ties him for 8th best in all of USL Championship. No one else has more than 3 goals for the Bold. Xavier Baez is their Assist leader with 4 while Ewa Twumasi leads the team in Chances Created with 23.
Diego Restrepo remains the man in between the pipes for the Bold. He has 22 saves in eleven appearances and one clean sheet so far in 2020, conceding twenty-one goals.
Fabien Garcia continues to lead the way with 39 clearances for the Bold on Defense and Jermaine Taylor is once again a focal point of the back line as well, with 37 clearances, making them a strong 1-2 tandem.
One loss is certainly not doom and gloom for SAFC. The fact remains, they are one win away from being Group Winners and securing a playoff spot. It would be a huge achievement for a team that has fallen agonizingly short of that goal the last two seasons. Still, it will be interesting to watch how this team responds to their first shot of adversity.
Marcina is crystal clear on his expectations. “It’s a team made of players with grit. We know it’s going to be a good response on Wednesday.”
The Matchup (W-D-L)
Austin Bold FC (3-6-2, 15 points)
at San Antonio FC (8-3-1, 27 points)
Toyota Field, Wednesday September 16th, 2020
Kickoff 8:00pm Central Time
Current Form (W-D-L)
San Antonio FC - 2020 Home Record (5-1-0)
Austin Bold FC– 2020 Road Record (1-4-0)
All Time History (W-D-L)
Saturday will mark the sixth all time meeting between these two teams. San Antonio FC are unbeaten in three straight games in the series. They are 2-1-1 vs the Bold in USL Championship play. San Antonio has also lost to Austin in Open Cup play for an all-time record of 2-1-2 against the Bold.
8/1/20 @ ATX W 4-2
8/15/20 @ SA D 1-1
9/16/20 @ SA
10/2/20 @ ATX
San Antonio FC got a late goal from Jose Gallegos in second half added time to erase a first half goal from Austin’s Baez. The goal salvaged a point for SAFC and kept their unbeaten season alive.
Here are the match highlights:
SAFC Wins If :
…if they can rebound. Now that this team has tasted defeat, we need to see how they respond. Everyone has a plan until you get hit in the mouth. Well, SA has finally taken one on the chin. So, how will they respond? Austin only has one road win in five tries this year, including a stop at Toyota Field last month.
IMAGES: SAN ANTONIO FC TWITTER, AUSTIN BOLD FC TWITTER
PHOTOS: DARREN ABATE, INSTAGRAM: @PEAKACTION