The 2019 USL season is over, it goes without saying that it was a disappointing season for SAFC. A club with so much potential missed the playoffs for the second year in a row and only has one playoff appearance in four seasons. It’s been a week since the season ended and now that the dust has settled, we take a look back at what went wrong, what went right and could of been.
WHAT WENT WRONG
The obvious answer is SAFC did not get enough points to clinch a playoff spot where over the half the teams in the league had a shot for the postseason. The biggest culprit was the numerous matches San Antonio FC had the lead and let points slip away.
It started with the very first match of the season versus Phoenix. Holding a 3-2 late in the 90th minute during stoppage time, Phoenix battled back with a goal and ended in a draw. On a road trip in April to Utah, SAFC also dropped points to Real Monarchs. With a 2-0 lead half way through the second half, SAFC allowed 3 goals, two on penalties to drop all three points on the road. On a May 18th home match versus Tulsa, SAFC had the early lead and an own goal lead to a Tulsa equalizer and the match ended in a 1-1 draw. In a crucial South Texas Derby in August, SAFC again dropped points at home with a 2-2 draw with RGV Toros after leading 2-0 and a man up at the 75 minute mark, would not be the last time SAFC drops a 2-0 lead late. A September trip to Tulsa, saw SAFC drop more points to the Roughnecks, While SAFC battled back from a 2-0 deficit with a three goal burst, Tulsa scored two in the second half to steal three points from SAFC, who struggled on the road all season long. On the last match of the season, with a playoff spot on the line, it appeared that SAFC was cruising to a victory leading 2-0 and a man up due a red card by a Switchbacks player over lowly Colorado Springs. An own goal by Ackon in the 68th minute and the wheels came apart. The Switchbacks scored again in the 82nd and derailed SAFC’s playoff hopes.
The total points that SAFC dropped this season was 15. Had San Antonio held on to win all the matches where points where dropped when having a lead, SAFC would have finished with 60 points tied for second with Reno. It shows how crucial it is not to drop points throughout the season and that every match is important, especially in the USL Western Conference where the battle from 2nd through 10th place was close throughout much of the season.
Too much reliance on youth players over experience, while this could be subjective because there is potential for Leo Torres and Jose Gallegos, SAFC needed the experience of Walter Restrepo and Rafa Castillo. It showed late in the season when Restrepo and Castillo took over to keep SAFC in the playoff hunt. To start Jose Gallegos over an injured Cristian Parano and over the experience of Rafa Castillo on the last match of the season with a playoff spot on the line was a grave mistake by Darren Powell. Gallegos at times has looked lost and over matched on the pitch. It was evident in the Reno away match and was a non-factor in the last match versus Colorado Springs. It also has to be addressed that Rafa Castillo did not suit up for much of the season, did not see action on the pitch until towards the last few matches after Billy Forbes was suddenly released from the team. Rafa throughout the season was not seen on the substitute roster during matches, in the locker room or on the training grounds, although he was never listed as injured. Both Billy’s departure and Rafa’s absence for much of the season, left some fans speculating and a sour taste with the club.
The inability to win away matches hurt the club’s chances moving up the table. It needs to be noted, that traveling in the USL Western Conference is extremely tough. Long flights, change in time zones, change in elevation, weather, sleeping in hotel rooms are all factors but every club has the same challenges. SAFC only won 3 away matches and had the lead in a couple of the losses.
The defense was too thin and Darren Powell did not rely on his substitutes on the bench. Playing a 3-4-3 formation for much of the season, will wear out a defense. Kai Greene lead the team in minutes with 3060, tackles with 103, won 102 aerial duels and 48 interceptions, a candidate for team MVP. But all those minutes and only a back three will wear anyone out late in matches. SAFC had the tendency to give up goals late due to defense being fatigued. Amer Didic was released only three matches into the season, apparently for not seeing eye to eye with Darren Powell. Pascal Eboussi and Johnny Fenwick saw less than 300 minutes on the pitch each. While Moises Hernandez was added on loan for a second season from FC Dallas, Moi ended up playing in midfield for much of the time.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
San Antonio FC broke the team single season goal record for the club. SAFC recorded 62 goals in 2019 and for the first time broke the 50 goal mark. Prior to this season, Darren Powell and SAFC game plan was to sit back and counter. SAFC this season was to high press more and in effect came with 7 attackers compared to 4 last year.
Walter Restrepo and Rafa Castillo played extremely well and complement the attack of Crisitan Parano, Brian Gomez and the combo of Frank Lopez and Ever Guzman in the Center Forward position. Restrepo lead the club with 8 assists. Lopez, Guzman and Barmby are tied for the goal lead with 8 and the Argentine duo of Gomez and Parano each had 7 goals.
San Antonio FC had a stretch of 12 matches where they only had 2 losses and were able to move up the table to as high as 8th place from 16th during that stretch. SAFC was clicking and playing well, after a slow start to the season, it seemed that Darren Powell had figured out the right formation and personnel, unitl Jameison went down.
Frank Lopez was a nice edition and was an immediate impact for the club, while Lopez is on loan from LA Galaxy II, we’ll have to see if he comes back next season.
SAFC was able to #DEFEND210, recorded 9 wins and only 2 losses at home.
WHAT COULD OF BEEN
Injuries, SAFC was effective by injuries. Lance Laing and Leeroy Maguraushe were out for most of the season and Bradford Jamieson IV’s season ending injury came at a time when the team was getting into a groove.
SAFC signed on Tony Taylor, a forward late in the season. Who only played a hand full of minutes and was not an impact on the pitch. What SAFC should of done was to find a reliable centerback to help a depleted back line.
Had SAFC not drop points this season, they would of finished second and most likely would of faced El Paso Locomotive in the quarterfinal at home.
San Antonio FC will go back to the drawing board and see what it can accomplish in year 5. As of right now, no word of what changes will take place prior to the beginning of the 2020 season, but we will bring you all the latest updates on Soy_SAF.