Image: San Antonio FC
In their inaugural season, San Antonio FC has had no shortage of firsts. This Saturday will contribute yet another…by not being a first. After playing game after game against different opponents, SAFC will finally face a team in competitive play for the second time.
This Saturday’s home match against OKC Energy FC is a rematch of Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Taft Stadium in Oklahoma City. For the first time, SAFC can approach a game with prior competitive experience to look back on.
Despite the midweek US Open Cup victory over Corinthians FC of San Antonio, SAFC players and coaches alike believe the game against Energy FC is still quite fresh in their minds. However, they know every game is a new challenge and opportunity, regardless of past experience.
“Each game starts 0-0 and has to be won on its merits,” said Darren Powell, SAFC head coach. Powell also said SAFC has rewatched their game from Sunday and will make small changes, but he concedes Energy FC will likely have done the same as well and made adjustments of their own. “It’s a game of chess.”
Midfielder Michael Reed, who is set to return from injury on Saturday, doesn’t foresee many changes in this second game either.
“It helps having back-to-back games because you don’t have to change the scouting report,” Reed said. “We got to feel out some of their strengths and weaknesses.”
Reed believes the home match against Energy FC gives SAFC the chance to focus more on their own game plan and how they want to play. He also expects the home atmosphere to be more encouraging for them when it comes to controlling the game and getting forward in attack.
“Guys will be more comfortable, more at ease, more focused to give the fans a better result and to do their job on the field,” Reed said.
Following the home game against Energy FC, SAFC will face another previous opponent as they play the Rio Grande Valley FC Toros at Toyota Field on Wednesday and at UTRGV’s Soccer and Track & Field Complex on June 4. Those two matches round out a five-game stretch of league games where SAFC has played either RGVFC or Energy FC.
SAFC’s first meeting with RGVFC ended in a gut-wrenching 3-2 defeat, courtesy of a Rob Lovejoy winner in stoppage time. That game is the only one in which SAFC has conceded more than one goal, which could help intensify the potential rivalry between the USL’s only two Texas teams.
Despite the proximity of both OKC Energy FC and RGVFC though, Powell doesn’t want to focus too heavily on those teams as their sole rivals. For him, the first season is about finding out who their rivals are as they go along.
“I see every game as a rivalry game,” Powell said. “When you’re a first-year team and playing teams for the first time, that’s what it is. You establish these competitive moments throughout the first game and it may carry into a second game.”
Most would say Sunday’s game against Energy FC didn’t exactly fan the flames of a potential rivalry. The agonizing 3-2 defeat to RGVFC, however, could have been the bitter start of a heated rivalry that will endure in the minds of SAFC players, coaches and fans, as well as those connected to RGVFC, for years to come. Luckily, we don’t have to wait long to see if either matchup develops into something significant.