All images: Steve Aibel, LittleOrcaSports.com / Pitch Black News
After weeks of “basically must-win” games, we’ve made it to the point where San Antonio FC must win or get some massive help from teams above them on the table. Tough losses in Salt Lake City and home against St. Louis relieve SAFC of control over their playoff destiny with just two matches remaining.
Franck Tayou faces three defenders
Headed into what “should be a win” at home against bottom of the table Tulsa, SA has to monitor the results of Orange County Blues and Real Monarchs SLC in order to know where they stand in playoff positioning. 13 of the 15 Western Conference clubs are still technically alive in the 8 team playoff hunt, but 8th place OC Blues and 9th place SLC are SAFC’s main threats.
To make the playoffs San Antonio must win against either Tulsa or RGV, as well as get varying amounts of help along the way.
If SA loses to Tulsa and OC wins or draws against RGV or SLC wins against Arizona United, SA is eliminated from contention immediately.
If SA plays to a draw with Tulsa and OC wins vs RGV, SA is eliminated from contention immediately.
If SA plays to a draw with Tulsa and OC doesn’t win vs RGV, SA would have to win vs. RGV and need SLC and OC to drop points depending on how this week’s games go for them.
On the more optimistic side, if SA wins vs. Tulsa and RGV, anything less than two OC wins or two SLC wins lands SA in the playoffs.
The trick is that first tiebreaker is wins, not goal differential. SA’s 9 wins put the club behind both OC and SLC in the tiebreaker, meaning if either of the other two clubs win out, SA misses the playoffs.
graphic: United Soccer League
All San Antonio can control are the games they play, so the focus has to be on Tulsa. SA has downed the Oklahoma side twice already this season, but being winless since August 27th has to be weighing on the Texas side. Plagued with injuries and suspensions, SAFC will no doubt be happy to welcome back Cesar Elizondo and Milton Palacios after both spent time recovering from injuries. If called upon to play, Elizondo is a dynamic midfield / attacking option and Palacios a reliable, experienced full back and will fill gaps in the roster that have struggled for the last few weeks. Also making his return from a one game suspension for card accumulation is center back Biko Bradnock-Brennan.
Jason Johnson battles at Toyota Field
At this point in the season, San Antonio can’t take anything for granted. Even against the worst team in the conference, the club must close out their last home match with a win or face a brutal set of circumstances to remain in the playoff hunt.
Carlos Alvarez has been stellar despite a team slump
Match Details: Game Twenty Eight. San Antonio, TX. Saturday 9/17/2016. Kickoff 7:30PM CDT
How To Watch: SanAntonioFC.com , USL Match Center
Keys for SAFC: Mental toughness has been one of SAFC’s biggest issues this month. The maturity to take Tulsa seriously as an opponent and the resolve to keep fighting if Tulsa pulls ahead are more important than anything else.
Player To Watch: Carlos Alvarez has been consistent despite a rough patch for the team. Leader in assists and tied for 2nd highest team scorer, Alvarez is likely to play a key role in SAFC’s midfield.
Pitch Black Projected Starting XI (4-1-4-1): Cardone; Gunderson, McBride, Bradnock-Brennan, Cochrane; Salazar; Okiomah, Castillo, Da. Garcia, Alvarez; Tayou
Score Prediction: San Antonio FC 3-0 Tulsa Roughnecks FC