Now that we’re deep into March, its safe to say that the pre-season is in full swing for San Antonio FC. The novelty of being in an inaugural season has taken a backseat to getting in form for the rapidly approaching regular season.
With three friendlies under their belts, SAFC looks towards Saturday’s bout with NPSL side Dallas City FC. For the last week we’ve spent time on the podcast and site speculating on a starting XI, formations, and general play style. Finally Thursday morning we chatted with Head Coach Darren Powell and midfielder Danny Garcia about their thoughts on the pre-season friendlies and the state of the club in general.
When asked about how it feels to have played three matches against other teams, Garcia said, “Feels great. The key to preseason to build up into the season and if you’re winning in the preseason that’s just going to give you a huge confidence boost going into the season.”
For weeks we’ve been saying that the W-D-L column doesn’t really matter for pre-season, but its clearly a factor with both Garcia and Powell. On the topic, Garcia feels that “The main objective is to win of course, but its also for fitness, getting ready to go for 90 minutes completely.” The friendlies serve as an extension of practice, but they also allow players to get in form to go the full 90 if asked.
Coach Powell had lots of thoughts on the pre-season, so instead of cutting his response into small quotes I’m just going to leave the mostly-complete transcript of our chat:
“The friendly games for us are basically an exercise. Its an extension of the week against outside competition to test ourselves on what we’ve been working on during the course of that week. The results are important and need to be important to the players because you’re competing to get that plane ticket to Seattle. There’s going to be limited spaces for the players and they know that so they’re competing for that.
For me as a coach right now its about getting to know the players. It can take months to get to know players and we have very short space of time which isn’t changing to get to know the players well and get what their strengths are. How do they get motivated? What do they enjoy in terms of football? What do they bring to the table? So we’re getting to know that over a roster size of about 24 when all is said and done.
The pleasing thing is the first two week block was working on the defensive shape of the team and pressing; the pressure and the different areas we want to do that. We can see there’s one goal on a free kick [SAFC’s only goal conceded thus far] so that’s pleasing. That means the guys are understanding the information. Now its a matter of this week we’re building on some of the things, some of the blocks. And as you saw this morning [at practice] there were some very good moments while the opposition knows what we’re trying to do. So hopefully when we play this Saturday that’s reflective on our defensive pressure and our ability on the ball.”
[Regarding the formation changes between each of the three friendlies thus far:]
“The formation doesn’t change that much. We’re looking at different pairings of players. We’ve rotated the midfielders to try playing along side each other. So for example, last week we tried playing Seba [Thuriere] and Michael [Reed] together, the week before we played Rafa [Castillo] and Michael and Seba and Miggy [Salazar], so we’re just looking at the best combination.
Its just trying different pairings in different parts of the field and that does tweak the formation slightly each time. But its just looking what’s the best combinations of players with the coaching staff looking in the preseason at what’s going to be our best eleven for that first game”
So in that context, the different formations make significantly more sense. We’ll be keeping an eye out in the lead up to the Dallas City FC friendly to where players are and which players are paired together. Following the site’s twitter (@PitchBlackNews) or the MLS in SA twitter (@MLSinSA) is the best way to get up-to-date analysis of all things SAFC.
Kickoff for the friendly is 2pm Saturday March 12th at Toyota Field. Like all of the pre-season friendlies, it will be closed to the public due to ongoing renovations at Toyota Field. As credentialed media we’ll be there bringing you everything we can to make you feel like you’re there.