Image: Steve Aibel, LittleOrcaSports.com / Pitch Black News
Despite Saturday’s loss to an impressive Los Angeles Galaxy II side, much has been made of San Antonio FC’s recent run of good form, and a large part of that success came within the comfortable confines of Toyota Field.
SAFC has been in their best form yet over the last month and a half. Even against tough opponents, the new United Soccer League team has delivered results, thanks in large part to playing five of their last six games at home.
After the scoreless draw with Rio Grande Valley FC on May 25, SAFC had a relatively unimpressive one win, two draws and two losses at Toyota Field so far, giving them five of a possible 15 points. Their only win came against the struggling Tulsa Roughnecks by a 3-1 scoreline on April 30.
Prior to Saturday’s loss though, they’d won three and drawn one of their last four at home, yielding 10 of a possible 12 points. In that stretch, they outscored their opponents 7-3 and both Josh Ford and Matt Cardone each earned a clean sheet.
Even in Saturday’s loss though, there was no lack of spring in SAFC’s step. A few defensive lapses gave them a 3-1 deficit at halftime, but a flurry of chances near the end of the game nearly clawed a point from the visitors. That effort by the players was rewarded with vocal, passionate support from the fans, which in turn encouraged the players even more.
“(The players) know the fans are behind them and they know the fans want to see that same passion, and they saw it tonight,” said SAFC head coach Darren Powell after Saturday’s game.
The fans have also gotten behind players like Franck “the Tank” Tayou, Taylor Morgan and Cesar Elizondo as they’ve been recently introduced into the squad. Tayou’s three goals in six substitute appearances have endeared him particularly well to the SAFC faithful.
The fans’ vocal support has also been aimed at Cardone while he plays in goal during Josh Ford’s three-game suspension following an incident against Oklahoma City Energy FC on July 9. In just his second start of the season, against Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2, Cardone saved a penalty kick early in the game, producing one of the loudest roars in Toyota Field’s history. Spending his entire life so far in San Antonio doesn’t hurt Cardone’s standing with the fans either.
The recent run of form – including the valiant display against LA Galaxy II – is even more impressive when you consider SAFC faced each of the current top four in the USL’s western conference. Prior to this stretch, they had two draws and two losses against the four teams collectively, though only one of those games was at Toyota Field. Just that change in results compared to earlier in the season is evidence of this team’s progress.
Being at home isn’t always seen as a positive though. Manolo Sanchez fears the team might assume home-field advantage will make things easier than they are, allowing complacency to creep in. Sanchez isn’t overly optimistic about games away from home either though
“Games on the road aren’t easy, but the good teams have to do it – everyone has to do it,” Sanchez said.
After the recent home stretch, SAFC now hits the road for three games against Swope Park Rangers in Kansas City, the Sacramento Republic and Arizona United SC. Powell has said there are no easy games in the USL, so it won’t help having to contend with hostile fans, unfamiliar stadiums, travel and everything else that comes with away games.
On this road trip though, improved form is on SAFC’s side. These three games will show us, from a different perspective, how far SAFC seems to have come since the start of the season.