All Images: Darren Abate, USL

There are a number of signs for all invested which indicate the start of a new season in soccer – the beginning of training camp, the reveal of a new kit, preseason friendlies, tailgate planning…

Primarily for local media of all kinds, and also somewhat for the players, one of the most exciting markers is media day, and a major component of that entails select players and coaches giving their thoughts on the state of the team as they prepare for the season which starts in a couple weeks.

Able to interview more people at once than any other time during the season, this one day provided a well-rounded view of where San Antonio FC is at and what their mentality is regarding the season and even just soccer in general. There’s so much said and covered in such a short span of time, and while we’ve heard some of it before, there are other things which stand out.

If (the players) all share their strengths with one another, I think that can really put us in a good position. With having so many returning players, we’re not actually starting from ground zero. -Darren Powell, head coach

It feels good to have a lot of the same faces back and a couple of new faces that are going to help, but we’re looking forward to bigger things this year. -Cyprian Hedrick, defender

If you followed SAFC in 2017, you know they did quite well, finishing second in the United Soccer League Western Conference standings and being one of the last eight teams in the playoffs. It was a step up from their first season, but it left a fair amount of room for improvement.

Because of their relative success, SAFC needed evolution in their squad rather than a revolution, and that’s exactly what happened. Both Powell and Hedrick mention the slew of returning players – 16, to be exact – and indicate the additions can be integral parts of the team which lead them to new heights.

A number of players brought into the SAFC squad bring not only talent but also considerable experience, be it through years of playing professionally or playing at a high level – or both. Make no mistake, there are very few “squad players” on this roster. Despite the talent ahead of them, even young players show determination to earn their chance to showcase their raw talent.

There’s a saying that the third time’s the charm, and that just might be the case with SAFC this year as their squad looks stronger than ever. They reinforced and even strengthened their squad in the offseason to give things a proper go in 2018.

Rio Grande Valley Toros FC vs San Antonio FC

I know the ball, I love the soccer ball and I like working with young people as well, and this place has given me the opportunity to do all of that. -Ryan Roushandel, midfielder/defender, captain

There’s just something about a soccer ball that moves people, and I think that we can reach so many people on so many different levels through the game of soccer. You don’t need much, you just need a ball and to be able to control it and you don’t even need to speak a language; you can just go out there and just start juggling a ball and kids will just start coming to you and wanting to play.” -Sonny, Guadarrama, midfielder

Roushandel and Guadarrama widened the focus a bit and spoke about soccer more generally as well as its role amongst youth. The words both players use may have you going to your garage and inspecting a soccer ball to try and figure out the mystical powers or personality it apparently possesses.

While they express similar sentiments though, their perspectives are fairly different. Roushandel has served as a coach for the SAFC Pro Academy since its inception two years ago. It’s one of the more prominent roles he’s held with the club, and the academy is linked with SAFC and directly benefits the club.

Guadarrama, on the other hand, spoke to the power of soccer as he saw it through some charity work with kids in Austin communities. His way of helping kids with soccer doesn’t directly benefit the club like Roushandel’s does, it’s just communicating with people through the ball.

Their different methods show the connecting power of soccer, for people of all ages, all backgrounds, all talent levels…we hear this about soccer all the time, but it’s not as often we actually get to see it in motion.

It’s easy to get up every day and have the motivation to come out here and try to make this club better, make this city better, make our kids better as an academy as well. I take a lot of pride in what I do here at this club. It’s become my home for the last two years. -Ryan Roushandel, midfielder/defender, captain

Despite only playing here and there for SAFC in his first year and a half with the club, Roushandel has been deeply involved in various ways since he joined in 2016. He has served as an academy coach, emergency backup goalkeeper and even color commentator – his involvement wasn’t the most prominent, but he was getting stuck in at the club.

Somehow, Roushandel found the time to contribute to the club even more at the business end of the 2017 USL season, playing in SAFC’s last 12 matches as a defensive midfielder, a position which breathed new life into his playing career.

It’s only getting better for Roushandel in 2018 as he was recently named club captain for the season. His role as a leader and veteran in the squad has been formalized and he should be playing consistently for the club as he did at the end of 2017.

It’s not a one-way transaction either as Roushandel said he now lives in San Antonio – at last, his work in the city has moved him to make it his literal home.

Posted by J. Check

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