San Antonio FC has few firsts left to capture in its third year, but they’ll have a rare opportunity to add a few when they host FC Dallas at Toyota Field on Wednesday night in the fourth round of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
Regardless of the result, this will be the first time SAFC hosts an MLS club in a competitive match. They can also get their first win against an MLS club, their only previous chance coming in the 2016 edition of the Open Cup when they lost 4-0 away to the Houston Dynamo.
“Anytime you get to play an MLS team, it’s something we look forward to” said SAFC defender Greg Cochrane, one of three players who faced Houston two years ago still with SAFC. “It should be a good battle – anytime we can test ourselves against players like that, it’s a good experience.”
FC Dallas tends to take the Open Cup seriously, having advanced to at least the quarterfinals of the competition in four of the last five seasons and winning it outright in 2016. The last time they lost their Open Cup opener was 2012, when they fell 2-0 to the Charlotte Eagles – who, incidentally, went on to beat San Antonio Scorpions FC 2-1 in the next round.
The MLS club is known for their wealth of young talent, having signed more homegrown players than any other club in the league. Young players like Paxton Pomykal want to make their case for more regular playing time with the first team, but they know the stakes are high if and when they get that chance Wednesday.
“At the end of the day, they’re a USL team and they’re going to be out for blood because we’re the MLS team,” Pomykal said in an article with FC Dallas. “They have everything to prove and we have everything to lose.”
SAFC’s history in the Open Cup is briefer and less extravagant. They stumbled before their first chance to host FC Dallas in 2017, falling 7-6 to Tulsa Roughnecks on penalty kicks after a scoreless draw in the third round. There’s also the aforementioned 4-0 loss to Houston Dynamo, which remains SAFC’s biggest loss in all competitions.
For the first time this season though, SAFC is heading into an Open Cup match on the back of a win after they scored two late goals to defeat Portland Timbers 2 by a 2-1 scoreline Saturday, their first league win in almost a month.
“It’s a big test, but one I think we’re ready for,” said SAFC Head Coach Darren Powell after Tuesday’s practice. “We need to use that performance on Saturday to give us some confidence…I think everybody in the squad is in a good place going into the match.”
While SAFC played their first two 2018 Open Cup matches in back-to-back weeks in mid-May, they were given a reprieve last week and don’t have a match in the USL this coming weekend, allowing them to focus fully on Wednesday’s match. Conversely, Wednesday’s match will be the third of four in eleven days for FC Dallas.
Both sides enter Wednesday’s match in at least decent form. FC Dallas is on a three-match winning streak and undefeated in their last six dating back to the start of May. SAFC hasn’t been quite that hot, but three wins, three draws and just one loss in their last seven USL matches is respectable.
While the two sides have never played in a competitive match, they have met a couple times in preseason. Most recently, SAFC defeated FC Dallas 2-0 in the 2018 preseason with midfielder Jose Escalante assisting both goals.
“People get so caught up in the fact that it’s an MLS team versus a USL team,” Cochrane said. “Anything can happen in a 90-minute game. You can play a team 10 times and you might lose nine, but that one (other) time you might win – who says that one time can’t be tomorrow night for us?”
Whichever side advances on Wednesday will advance to the Round of 16, the draw for which will be held on Thursday and set the bracket for the rest of the tournament.
San Antonio FC
Previous 2018 Open Cup match: 1-1 draw (5-3 on PKs) vs Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC (USL)
League record & form: 4-3-5, WDDLW (9th in USL Western Conference)
Previous 2018 Open Cup match: N/A
League record & form: 7-1-5, WDWWW (2nd in MLS Western Conference)
Two Ten Soccer Projected Starting XI: Cardone; King, Christian, Cochrane; Lopez, Pecka, Rodriguez, Escalante; Gordon, Seth, Elizondo
Jonathan Check: SAFC 1*-1 FC Dallas
Jesus Miguel Garcia: SAFC 1-2 FC Dallas
Jose Mario Jimenez: SAFC 1-3 FC Dallas
Larry Leathers: SAFC 1*-1 FC Dallas
Kyle Mahnke: SAFC 1*-1 FC Dallas
*win on penalty kicks
How to watch:US Soccer, 7:30pm CT
Follow along on Twitter: #SAvFCD #USOC2018 @TwoTenSoccer @checkjfooty @LarryLeathers87 @Kyle_Mahnke