San Antonio FC will welcome New Mexico United to Toyota Field for the first playoff game at the venue since 2017. This will be the third all time playoff game for SAFC and all of them have been at Toyota Field. After two straight years of closely missing out on postseason play, SAFC left no doubt in 2020. They were the first team to clinch their spot this season.
For New Mexico United, it marks their second straight season in the playoffs. Last year they were the number 10 seed and lost 2-1 to Sacramento Republic in the play-in round last October. They will be no strangers to the road as they have played their entire season on the road in 2020 due to local Covid-19 related restrictions.
Fans will be permitted at the match, up to 35% capacity. And you can bet the added capacity (approximately a 10% increase from previous matches with fans) will surely help give the team a lift as they have spent most of the season playing in empty stadiums.
Manager Alen Marcina is looking forward to being back home. “We are incredibly excited that we get to host the first-round playoff match. It’s a great achievement for the club and the first time it’s happened since 2017. We are proud of that, but now the focus is putting a strategy together, executing the details, having the will to compete and progressing in playoffs.”
This will be the third game between these two teams in their history. Both meetings last year produced lopsided results for the home team. New Mexico won 3-0 on their ground and SAFC returned the favor with a 5-0 win at Toyota Field. The winner of this match will play the winner of El Paso vs FC Tulsa.
San Antonio wrapped up their regular season in Austin last week with a 2-1 defeat. After starting the season with an eleven-match unbeaten run, SAFC lost their final three road games of 2020, three of five overall, and two straight to end the season. Not exactly how they’d prefer to enter the playoffs.
Defender Connor Maloney talked about the team’s mindset after the setback. "This is a good learning experience for us. The last two games, we have lost by one goal. It’s a reality check, and can we learn from this now? Can we learn from this, take it into the next game and learn from it and compete? It’s about the will to win and wanting to be on the field every day and competing. Any guy that steps on the field in our locker room doesn’t like to lose.”
New Mexico United last played on Wednesday September 30th, a 1-0 win over Real Monarchs. They didn’t play their 16th game because it became unnecessary. That would have been a game against RGV that was postponed due to Covid-19 precautions back on September 23rd. El Paso had a 5-point lead in Group C so that match became irrelevant.
There are two clear offensive leaders for United. Christopher Wehan and Amando Moreno are tied for the team lead in Goals with 6 each and they are also tied for the team lead in Assists with 4 each. Moreno leads with 31 Shots while Wehan takes the nod in Chances Created with 21. They are clearly the top two players SAFC will have to worry about, but not the only ones. Seven other players have tallied for New Mexico this year.
Cody Mizell is the man in Goal for New Mexico. He has 26 saves and six clean sheets while conceding 17 goals in 15 appearances. His six clean sheets ranks him 4th in all of USL Championship in that category.
Kalen Ryden has 63 Clearances, 16 Blocks and 26 Interceptions to lead the Defensive unit. Austin Yearwood adds 45 Clearances and 24 Interceptions.
It has been a long three year wait for San Antonio FC to return to post season play. Now the Regular season is in the past and they are back where they want to be. All that matters now is winning 4 straight games and lifting their first ever USL Cup. That starts with the first one on Saturday night at Toyota Field.
Marcina knows it’s time for the intensity to change. “Now, it’s about playoff mode, playoff mentality and playoff scripts. We have to change the mindset and now we are focused on putting up a good performance against New Mexico, who are a very strong team. We need to make sure we put our best foot forward and put on a show for our fans in the first round of the playoffs.”
A show would be fantastic, but getting the win is what will matter for San Antonio FC.
The Matchup (W-D-L)
New Mexico United (8-3-4, 27 points) at San Antonio FC (10-3-3, 33 points)
Toyota Field, Saturday October 10th, 2020
Kickoff 8:00pm Central Time
Current Form (W-D-L)
San Antonio FC – 2020 Home Record (7-1-0)
New Mexico United– 2020 Road Record (8-3-4)
All Time History (W-D-L)
Saturday will mark the third ever meeting between these teams and the first in the post-season. SAFC are 1-0-1 vs New Mexico United including a win at Toyota Field last season.
10/10/20, Western Quarterfinals @ SA
San Antonio FC buried New Mexico United the first and only time they came to Toyota Field in a 5-0 win for San Antonio back in August 2019. SAFC were in their spectacular third kit from 2019 that night, the grey and black hoops.
Here are the match highlights:
How They Got Here
San Antonio FC were Winners of Group D, earning 33 points in 16 games.
New Mexico United were Runners Up in Group C, earning 27 points in 15 games.
SAFC Playoff History
10/21/17, SAFC defeated Tulsa Roughnecks 2-1 at Toyota Field in the Western Quarterfinals.
10/28/17, SAFC lost to OKC Energy at Toyota Field in the Western Semifinals. After a 1-1 Full Time
score, OKC defeated SAFC on penalty kicks 4-1.
SAFC Wins If :
….if SAFC can keep up their unbeaten run at home and return to the type of football that made them Group Winners. SAFC fans have been waiting for this game for a long time. SAFC needs to capitalize on all their hard work that put them in this position to be able to host a playoff game, on a ground where SAFC are very tough to beat. Win this one for the fans.
IMAGES: SAN ANTONIO FC TWITTER, NEW MEXICO UNITED TWITTER
PHOTOS: DARREN ABATE, INSTAGRAM: @PEAKACTION