BY: Miguel Padilla
The 2019 USL Championship season is fast approaching for San Antonio FC and after a disappointing 2018 campaign, SAFC made some changes on the roster and staff in hopes of righting the ship and sailing towards the glory land of winning the USL Cup. While SAFC has signed some fresh faces with experience in Major League Soccer and clubs across Europe, there are a few familiar faces from the height of San Antonio soccer’s recent history.
Let’s rewind the clocks back to a chilly, rainy November night in 2014 at Toyota Field where the San Antonio Scorpions won the North American Soccer League’s Soccer Bowl. Goals by Rafa Castillo and Billy Forbes with the coaching genius of Alen Marcina cemented the club into the lore of San Antonio Soccer culture. After the final whistle blew, fans ran onto the field in joyous celebration and the team lifted the cup. It was truly an euphoric night to all present and a milestone in the soccer culture of San Antonio.
Fast forward a year later, San Antonio Scorpions did not repeat as champions and finished an abysmal tenth place and there was no celebration when the final whistle blew on the 2015 season, nothing but uncertainty as rumors and speculations that the Scorpions would not return and leave professional soccer in San Antonio at a crossroads. As rumor became truth and the Scorpions were no more, the winter seemed a bit colder not knowing if professional soccer would ever return. By the spring of 2016, San Antonio FC came to be as an expansion club in the USL.
Now, let’s rotate that imaginary time stone back to the present, SAFC now have several players and one former coach from the Scorpions linking both clubs and San Antonio soccer history. Time to break it down for each one, see what they have been up to since leaving Scorpions and coming back to SAFC. Also, what we think they will achieve in the 2019 season.
ALEN MARCINA –
After the Scorpions disbanded, Alen found himself in OKC with Rayo OKC, an ill-fated franchise majority owned by Rayo Vallecano of the Spanish La Liga. Alen coach 18 matches with a record 6 wins, 6 draws and 6 losses before being unceremoniously let go during his one and only season at Rayo OKC. The NASL club from Oklahoma would also find itself disbanding in a strange story for another time.
At the beginning of 2018, The Des Moines Menace of the PDL acquired the services of Alen and named him head coach. Alen led the Menace to an undefeated record of 13-0-1, unfortunately the Menace did not qualify for the 2018 US Open Cup.
Alen Marcina was announced as assistant coach on Halloween, October 31st 2018. Alen’s presence can already be felt as the team has several former Scorpions players and may have played a part in getting Goalkeeper Jonathan Viscosi who played with the Menace in 2012 and, like Alen, is also Canadian. Alen will have a proactive presence in the locker room and should be the right balance between staff and players; it was speculated that relationships in the SAFC locker room were strained during 2018. Should the season quickly head south, expect Head Coach Darren Powell to be on the hot seat and could be replaced by Alen if the front office and the fans feel that SAFC isn’t going in the right direction.
Verdict: Balance in the Force Prediction: successor to Darren Powell
BILLY FORBES –
The interesting adventures of Billy Forbes. This will be the third stint in San Antonio for the Turks and Caicos Islands midfielder. Billy tallied 50 appearances in two seasons (2014-2015) for the San Antonio Scorpions and scored the winning goal in the 2014 NASL Soccer Bowl. After leaving San Antonio, Billy went to to Oklahoma City and joined Alen Marcina at Rayo OKC and had 3 goals. In 2017, Billy return to San Antonio, this time for SAFC in its second season. Billy finished with, at the time, a season record 10 goals and the club finished second in the USL Western Conference standings. SAFC was eliminated by another OKC club, the Energy.
For the 2018 season, Billy traveled west to the deserts of Arizona and played for the revamped Phoenix Rising FC led by Drogba. Phoenix playing an exciting brand of soccer, found its way to the USL Cup final before bowing out to eventual champions Louisville.
Billy has also played an international match on November 18th, 2018, scoring two goals versus Saint Vincent and Grenadines in a 3-2 victory for the 2019-2020 CONCACAF Nations League Qualification.
What should we expect from Billy in 2019? Well, he appeared in 20 matches and had 3 goals for Phoenix last season. Sure to be disappointing numbers for the midfield winger, Billy is focused and looking to replicate the numbers during his two previous stays in San Antonio. Billy will most likely be the match to match starter on the Left Wing with, what I speculate, Lance Laing moving over to the right wing after Omar Gordon’s departure. SAFC is looking to be more offensive minded this season and Billy should be right there at the cusp of another season of double digits goals.
Verdict: Impact Player Prediction: 9 goals 5 assists
WALTER RESTREPO –
The Colombian winger is a seasoned traveler having spent time in NASL, MLS, USL and in Colombia’s top division. After leaving the Scorpions, Walter spent two stints at the New York Cosmos ( 2015 and 2017), Philadelphia Union and had 4 appearances for the MLS side, Bethlehem Steel FC, Tampa Bay Rowdies and spent time with Deportes Tolima in Colombia during the 2018 season. Has 6 goals in all competitions since leaving the Scorpions.
What should be expect from Walter in 2019? The 30 year winger won’t be an every match starter, will likely be a spot starter at winger on short turn around matches and the early rounds of US Open Cup matches or come on as a sub to give Billy Forbes some rest late in matches.
Verdict: Role Player Prediction: 1 goal 2 assists
RAFA CASTILLO –
The Legend. Who can forget the bicycle kick in the 2014 Soccer Bowl? Rafa is SAFC’s most popular player, a guy with a big smile and a bigger heart. Making visits to local hospitals, always makes time for the fans after matches and is currently working on his “D” coaching license. Many say a statue of Rafa’s chilena should be placed in front of Toyota Field as soon as he retires.
Rafa has been in San Antonio since 2014 and enters his sixth season for a San Antonio Club. Rafa was one of the first signings and has an impressive 111 appearances and 25 goals combined with the Scorpions and SAFC. Rafa is also clutch as penalty taker and spot kicker. Rafa did spend much of the 2018 season with what appeared to be a nagging lower body injury but did return for the last hand full of matches at the end of the season. Rafa, who turns 39 in June, is a hard worker when it comes to physical conditioning, looks like an absolute beast and his cardio is never a question. However, father time is undefeated and the USL schedule is a long and brutal one.
What should we expect from Rafa in 2019? If Rafa stays healthy, he will be able to log a lot of minutes, mostly as a super sub getting 20 to 30 minutes per match and be a thorn in opposing defenses. Rafa still has speed and strength for one more season.
Verdict: Super Sub Predictions: 3 goals 2 assists
Fear. The. Beard. Matt’s beard is as iconic as the Crockett Hotel and at times almost as long as the Tower of the Americas. It flows, its manly, it what every beard aspires to be. A local boy, the San Antonio native and Trinity Alumn signed with the Scorpions in 2015 had 4 appearances in his rookie season.
Matt was also one of the original signings for SAFC in 2016 and was the starter for 13 matches in the last half of the 2018 season after Diego Restrepo went down with a season ending knee injury. Matt started in 13 matches and conceded 18 goals with a 67.3 save percentage and one Clean Sheet compared to Diego’s 71.2 percent save percentage and 4 Clean Sheets. Matt is an aggressive GK and made some fantastic saves that were USL save of the week candidates, but did get caught on one v one situations where he was too aggressive and got scored on, but to his defense (pun intended) the back line was shaky at times.
What should we expect from Matt in 2019? It’s his job to lose. The competition is definitely open with the signing of Jonathan Visconi. Which is good, a little competition is always healthy and keeps both talented keepers accountable. Matt has a few weaknesses, with 13 matches under Matt’s belt from last season, GK coach Juan LaMadrid will work with Matt to identify and correct any mental mistakes.
Verdict: Starting GK Prediction: GAA 0.95 and Average 4 Saves per match
We will cover the rest of the roster towards the end of the preseason. Can these former Scorpions come together and inject new life into SAFC’s season? Let us know what you think.