San Antonio FC will continue their campaign to push into the USL playoffs when they host Las Vegas Lights FC on Saturday night. It will be the middle match of three at Toyota Field to end an up-and-down 2018 regular season for SAFC.
“The message to the players is quite simple: control the controllables,” SAFC Head Coach Darren Powell said before last weekend’s 3-1 win over Seattle Sounders FC 2. “We still have everything to play for to get to the playoffs, to achieve our aspirations, and then we have to look at other teams helping us along the way.”
When Powell said that, SAFC was six points behind Saint Louis FC for the eighth and final playoff spot. While another team just above the cutoff, Reno 1868 FC has won two matches since then and clinched a playoff berth, both Saint Louis and Swope Park Rangers lost last weekend. With neither of those teams playing this weekend, an SAFC win would put the pressure on as they overtake Saint Louis, who do have a match in hand, and would sit just one point behind Swope.
Standing in the way of SAFC is a Lights FC side which would win the USL title with little trouble if it were based on media buzz, but has struggled on the field in its inaugural season. Currently, they’re on a 10-match winless streak, having last taken all three points against Rio Grande Valley FC with a 1-0 home win on Aug. 4, and two-thirds of their matches on the road this season have ended in losses.
Las Vegas may also hold a grudge against SAFC for handing them their first ever competitive loss on April 27 after starting the season with two wins and draws apiece. The 3-1 win for SAFC may also be remembered for handing injuries to their forward Ever Guzman and midfielder Connor Presley, and the match was disrupted in the second half by fans throwing things onto the pitch.
Lights FC has lit up the scoreboard a decent amount of times this season with 44 goals, tied for 14th in the USL, and they rank an impressive third in shots taken with 477. Their performance at the other end of the field is what has undone their season though, with their 68 goals conceded (2.2 per game) being worse than all but three teams.
Despite a slightly less productive offense, SAFC’s defense has done much better with 46 goals conceded placing them in the middle of the pack. SAFC also have a much better passing accuracy with 78.1 percent, exactly 10 percentage points better than Las Vegas.
There’s one area where the clubs are very similar though: discipline. Las Vegas ranks first in the league with a runaway 89 yellow cards so far, but SAFC ranks right behind them with 76. Lights FC defender Joel Huiqui leads the league with 12 yellow cards, but SAFC defender Darnell King and midfielder Mikey Lopez come tied in second with 11 each. Interestingly, while Las Vegas also leads the league with 492 fouls committed, SAFC ranks only fourth with 446.
Having last week defeated Seattle Sounders FC 2, another team who has languished near the bottom of the USL Western Conference standings, SAFC will fancy their chances against Las Vegas on Saturday, continuing to do what they can to push for the playoffs.
San Antonio FC
Record: 13-12-7 (46 pts, 9th place) | Form: WLLLW | Previous match: 3-1 win vs Seattle Sounders FC 2
Card Accumulation Warnings: Darnell King – 10, Cyprian Hedrick – 4
Las Vegas Lights FC
Record: 7-17-7 (28 pts, 15th place) | Form: LLDLL | Previous match: 1-0 loss vs Oklahoma City Energy FC
Card Accumulation Warnings: Marco Jaime – 10, Marcelo Alatorre – 4, Miguel Garduno – 4
Two Ten Soccer Projected Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Cardone; King, Hedrick, Hernandez, Cochrane; Pecka; Elizondo, Bryant, Lopez, Laing; Guzman
Jonathan Check: SAFC 3-1 Lights FC
Larry Leathers: SAFC ?-? Lights FC
Jose Mario Jimenez: SAFC ?-? Lights FC
Kyle Mahnke: SAFC 1-1 Lights FC
How to watch: ESPN+, 7:30 p.m. CT
Follow along on social media: #SAvLV @TwoTenSoccer @checkjfooty @LarryLeathers87 @Kyle_Mahnke