San Antonio FC (13-1-3, 40 points) defeated Charleston Battery (2-3-12, 9 points) by a score of 2-0 on Saturday night at Toyota Field. It was the first ever match between the two inter-Conference Clubs. It has been a rough year for Charleston as they have now only won twice in the first half of the season. SAFC saw Goals from Santiago Patiño and Ignacio Bailone in the victory. It was the second goal in as many games for Bailone and the second in five games for Patiño. SAFC has now won 4 of their last 5 matches overall.
But the night belonged to SAFC Keeper Matt Cardone who was playing in his final match for the Club. Cardone entered the match in the 76' to a gigantic roar from the SAFC faithful who were chanting "Fear the Beard." It was fitting that the match ended with another San Antonio FC clean sheet that Cardone helped to earn. The 7 year SAFC veteran holds that club record, along with many others.
Said Cardone after the match, "All the guys in this league bounce around year to year, I’m so happy it’s worked out for me here, getting to stay in my hometown and go up the ranks and be with this great club for so long. It’s been so special. I reflected on it, which I’ve been doing a lot this week. It’s been a really special experience and it means a lot to me. I’m never going to forget it.”
San Antonio FC has hit the official midpoint of the season and all indications are that this team will be a serious contender for USL Cup this Autumn, one season after falling in the Western Conference Final. SAFC holds a four point lead over Colorado at the top of USL West. Most importantly, SAFC still has 10 home games left on their schedule and only 7 road games. SAFC has only lost one time at Toyota Field in 2022.
The win and the three points were obviously a huge part of the night, but it somehow felt secondary to all the Cardone fanfare. The San Antonio native spent his entire career in the city, including every season in San Antonio FC's existence as well as one season with NASL's San Antonio Scorpions and was a huge fan favorite. Cardone plans to enroll in the Dedman School of Law at Southern Methodist University this fall.
“These last seven and a half seasons with SAFC have been an incredible adventure,” said Cardone. “I have enjoyed every minute I’ve spent representing this club.”
San Antonio FC Managing Director Tim Holt also expressed his appreciation, “His on-field accomplishments speak for themselves, and off the field there has been no more positive representative for professional soccer in San Antonio. While we all miss seeing him at the club every day, his legacy will last at SAFC and we eagerly anticipate the impact he will undoubtedly make in this next chapter of his bright, young career.” Holt made a special trophy presentation to Cardone in pre-match ceremonies.
Cardone finishes his SAFC playing career with several team records including appearances (108), saves (327), clean sheets (25), penalty saves (5) and minutes played (9,542). In 2021, Cardone set another club record by reaching 99 saves on the season.
Surprisingly, that wasn't the only departure announced on the night. Former SAFC player and current SAFC Coach Ryan Roushandel was honored at halftime for all his contributions to the SAFC organizatuon from on-field to the Academy to Coaching as he announced his departure from the team as well. He and his family are moving to Florida. It was not announced what his future career plans are, but it was a bitter sweet night for SAFC overall as not one but two Club Legends departed on the same night.
In player news SAFC Manager Alen Marcina noted that Midfielder David Loera recently underwent a "serious" surgery in his post match comments and said the player would miss significant time.
Next up for SAFC is a bye week. No doubt the team will take a few days off to recoperate ahead of their next match which will be on July 16th against Atlanta United 2, right back at Toyota Field. Perhaps SAFC can shorten their injury list with the extended break. It was still four players deep ahead of the Charleston match.
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PHOTO: DARREN ABATE/ INSTAGRAM: @PEAKACTION