Images: Steve Aibel, Pitch Black News / Little Orca Sports
I’m not someone who likes to focus on the negatives of a situation. If you’ve been following the site or podcast for the duration of the season, you’ll know that I tend to lean positive on a lot of issues. “Positive until given reason to be negative” as I like to say.
Well, it’s safe to say we’re into troubling territory when it comes to scoring goals in USL play. But before I get to that, lets talk about the positives of what San Antonio FC (2-5-4) has going for it heading into a tough match against Portland Timbers 2 (5-6-1).
San Antonio FC’s defense is solid. Two clean sheets through eleven games, only one game where more than one goal was allowed, and a 0.80 goals against average for captain Josh Ford are all fantastic. Those numbers are even more exciting when you see that they’ve come from a club that has deployed 10 different starting XI’s through 11 games. Even the midfield offensive play is good. The ball is getting to the 18 yard box and being crossed in or attacked through the middle several times each game.
The problem is finishing. San Antonio FC doesn’t have a target striker. Leading goalscorer Jason Johnson is a phenom when it comes to dribbling around opponents, but he hasn’t shown a great finishing touch or the ability to finish plays created by other players. The crowded midfield position is filled with talented players, but none that have shown that particular skill set. Lots of guys who can make big plays and create chances, but so far we haven’t seen anyone who can consistently finish the chances being created.
So as San Antonio FC marches into Portland to take on Timbers 2, I expect to see more of the same: a hard-fighting, athletic team that will absorb Portland’s attack and counter with their own, but probably fall short in the final third of the pitch. If someone on the roster steps up I’ll happily be proven wrong, but the hole at striker is becoming harder to ignore, even for the large number of us who want this club to succeed in its first season.
Match Details: Game Twelve. Merlo Field. Portland, OR. Sat. 6/11/2016. Kickoff at 9:00pm Central
Keys for SAFC: As discussed above, the team has to be more consistent finishing. I don’t want to ramble on about it, but it’s really the only weak spot of this club.
Player To Watch: Shawn Chin is the closest thing we’ve had to a target striker this season. His first touches haven’t always been perfect, but they’ve been very good. I don’t know that he’s the answer by himself up top for the entire season, but I think he has the ability to put some in the back of the net given the opportunity. Of course that depends on players like Alvarez and Cochrane continuing to create chances like they have most of the season.
Pitch Black Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Ford (c); Cochrane, McCarthy, McBride, Moseley; Reed, Castillo; Johnson, Alvarez, Araujo; Chin
Sticking with my “old reliable” projected starting XI because honestly who knows what is coming this week other than Coach Powell and the club? It’s obvious that there’s a scoring problem, so some tinkering might be in order. Maybe even see more of a traditional 4-3-3 than we have in the past. All we know is that Manolo Sanchez hasn’t been announced as being available yet after being away on international duty with Puerto Rico. This round of Caribbean Cup Qualifying ended June 7th, but SAFC hasn’t made any announcement on if he is back with the club or not. He’s a dynamic player that may prove to help the attack upon his return to club action, but for now it sounds like they’ll have to continue on without him.
Score Prediction: Portland Timbers 2 1-0 San Antonio FC I hate to be the pessimist here, but the boys haven’t shown any reason to believe the scoring drought will be coming to a close this week. Portland likely won’t be a sellout according to our friends at Play the Kids, but there will be at least one battalion of the Timbers Army in attendance making sure SAFC doesn’t feel too comfortable on the road.