When the injury report came out for the Week 3 match up versus Rio Grande Valley, fans of San Antonio FC were taken aback by the high number of injuries and the loss of some quality players. Fans are questioning what is going on in the training grounds as most if not all the injuries have occurred between matches. Supporters feared SAFC would have a tough time gaining any points against the Toros. Alen Marcina has put together a fantastic roster, capable of being a championship contender at the end of the season and the result last Sunday with a 2-1 win over RGVFC, the Alamo City Boys endured. The season is still in the very early stages and SAFC is off to a perfect start.
Fans have not forgotten seeing players going down with cramps and looking utterly exhausted during the 2021 USL Western Conference Final. Lack of subs and mounting minutes caught up to SAFC at the end and potentially cost them a trip to the Final. Can Alen Marcina and SAFC overcome the latest rash of injuries? Is the bench deep enough? Will Alen Marcina use his subs more often as the season progresses?
It a big loss when PC and Mohamed Abu were announced out, both being the anchors of center midfield. Santiago Patino has yet to make an appearance this season, apparently due to a lower body injury suffered sometime in preseason. Big splash signing from Austin FC, Kekuta Manneh also has yet to don the SAFC kit this season. While, Deshane Beckford has only made one appearance.
The USL of the USL Players Association, as far as we know, have no requirements for clubs in the USL to make mandatory announcements of player injuries, specific type of injury or expected length of time a player could be out. For San Antonio FC, they usually make a public injury report on match day around an hour or so before kickoff.
It has been clearly next man up for SAFC as they have started 3-0-0 with a perfect 9 points through the first three weeks of the season, a record for best start in club history. The Alamo City Boys will be home this weekend to face a beleaguered Phoenix Rising team with only three points this season. SAFC has yet to play its best futbol this season with players getting accustomed to each other and the rhythm of Alen Marcina’s game plan. Adding injuries, make the progress longer but does give players who will be on the bench once the starters return some valuable minutes and experience in Marcina’s style.
The Problem with the Current Bench
The bench is looking thin right now, it may look different if players return Saturday, and are hardly getting any valuable minutes. Through Sunday’s match the entire bench from the RGVFC match had a total of 35 minutes on the pitch this season. Only Jordan Ayimbila has registered those 35 minutes in two appearances. Only four position players were available as goalkeepers Matt Cardone and Jordan Farr took two bench spots as SAFC have been having three GKs so far this season. Roman Holt is the only academy product on the team, the Defender has yet to see minutes.
The roster at SAFC has been shown to be always fluid; as history has shown of players leaving on loan, academy players signed or players coming in and making an impact in half a season. So the bench could look quite different but the end of the season. The verdict is the bench is looking awfully thin and inexperienced right now.
The Lack of Substitutes
Alen Marcina has relied on his starting XI to get the job done. This was evident especially during the playoff run, as he never used all five subs alotted in a match. It seemingly caught up to the Alamo City Boy when players looked exhausted and falling down with cramps in the USL Western Conference Final. This year in the first two matches, nine starters had the maximum amounts of minutes played and seven have played max minutes through three matches. Alen Marcina seems to be using the same tatics of saving subs as if they roll over to the next match. Although SAFC has been perfect through three matches, there are 31 matches left and many months of high summer temps ahead. Sooner or later, Alen Marcina will have to increase minutes played by subs.
The Training Ground or Battle Ground?
Media isn’t allowed to attend practices and media days on the training grounds the day before a travel day or home match hasn’t happened since before the shutdowns. Fans are not allowed to attend either as the practices are closed to the public. But last season and this season, injuries on the training ground have been seemingly high. We can’t speculate on what happens during practice but the physio and team doctors have been busy the last two season patching players up and getting them healthy. Maybe it should be time SAFC and Alen Marcina revisit and review training tactics.
The Patino Problem
Santiago Patino has been highly effective and an All Star player when he has been healthy. Patino missed about half the season due to a lower body injury and was back in time for the playoffs and dominated. SAFC fans were expecting a healthy Patino to potentially shatter the club’s record for single season goals by one player. It is rumored that Patino is set to return for the next match against Phoenix Rising but nothing official has been stated by SAFC. So far Dhillion and Collier have been outstanding but Patino is a difference maker.
As the old adage says, “winning cures everything” and SAFC is tied for first place in the Western Conference just behind in goal differential. But SAFC has yet to dominate a match and cracks are showing early in the season. This is a tough team, experienced with great leaders. The Alamo City Boys will always find a way to be competitive but a healthy SAFC team with the right use of subs in 2022 will be unstoppable.