Image: Steve Aibel, LittleOrcaSports.com / Pitch Black News
It doesn’t matter how good of a run San Antonio FC were on or how good the teams they got results against were; a stretch of six-pointers has begun and SAFC can’t afford to slip up much.
From mid-June to mid-July, SAFC went on a six-match unbeaten streak in United Soccer League play, getting positive results against high-flying teams such as Oklahoma City Energy FC and Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2. The run of good form also saw them slowly ascend the USL western conference standings.
Then, a wake-up call: back-to-back losses against Los Angeles Galaxy II and Swope Park Rangers. Seemingly twice as fast as they had gone up, SAFC stumbled down the table again.
The loss to LA Galaxy II was understandable; LA has the best offense in the league, the top scorer and was able to carve open SAFC intricately. The loss to Swope Park, on the other hand, wasn’t as justifiable. Like SAFC, they’ve struggled this season and weren’t far ahead of SAFC in the standings at all – SAFC could have leapfrogged them with a win.
Games like that against nearby competitors in the table make up almost all of SAFC’s season from here on out. No team in the remainder of SAFC’s schedule is currently ranked higher than sixth in the conference standings. While positive results against the top teams were nice, SAFC needs to deliver against their mid- and lower-table competitors not only to propel themselves upward but also to hold back the teams around them.
SAFC has been in this topsy-turvy midtable scrum for a couple months now. Their run of good form helped them crawl up the table, but the two subsequent losses saw them suddenly plummet. They now sit in 12th place, four spots away from a playoff berth, but only three points out of the picture.
That closeness makes the remaining games very important though. In particular, SAFC plays two new opponents, Arizona United SC and Saint Louis FC, a combined five times in their last ten games. Just a few places above SAFC, those opponents are already making their late-season pushes into the playoff picture.
Arizona, who SAFC plays in consecutive games on Saturday and Aug. 17, has won three of their last four games. In addition, they have two players in the most recent USL Team of the Week, including Chris Cortez, the USL’s Player of the Week.
Saint Louis’ form isn’t as hot, winning one and drawing two of their last three games. However, that means they’re still keeping results close, no doubt in an effort to inch their way into playoff position, so SAFC will be looking at even more close games, something they’re used to this season.
Besides those, SAFC has repeat clashes with Swope Park and Seattle Sounders FC 2, plus a game against new opponent Real Monarchs SLC. After that, it’s a penultimate game against western conference whipping boys Tulsa Roughnecks, followed by Rio Grande Valley FC, the highest-placed opponent left for SAFC at sixth.
The run of good form for SAFC showed how hard and slow it can be to climb the table, then the back-to-back losses showed them how easy and quick it is for them to drop back down. That’s a by-product of all the teams around them being so close and getting results of their own.
Sure, SAFC is theoretically playing easier teams now, but almost all will be fighting for the same thing. From here on out, SAFC is playing a bunch of six-pointers, so any points dropped are points handed, perhaps gifted, to their direct competitors.