The Final Word: Rocky Mountain High, SAFC sits on top of the USL after big win in Colorado

Not every win is going to be pretty or go as planned. Sometimes a win can come with a lucky bounce of ball or sheer grit. In Colorado Springs on Friday night, San Antonio FC proved to win by a different method and now find themselves on top of the USL with the most points.

The Alamo City Boys went to Colorado Springs to meet up one of the most talented and high powered offensive teams in the USL. The Switchbacks feature last year’s USL Goal leader Hadji Barry and former midfielder Cam Lindley, who is currently tied for third in assists in all the USL Championship.

San Antonio FC was coming into Colorado Springs with one of the best defenses in the league and Santiago Patino making his first start since his return from injury.

It was a battle of one versus two in the Western Conference and both teams sat with the top most points in all the USL. A win would help the chances of getting a first round bye and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Western Conference is turning into a two horse race halfway into the season as third place New Mexico United sit some seven points back.

The Switchbacks had the edge, SAFC had only won once before at Colorado Springs. The high altitude factors into home field advantage at Weidner Field.

San Antonio FC had chance to score in the eighth minute on a precise through pass from Santiago Patino to Nicky Hernandez. Hernandez was not able to get proper footing and miss the one timer from 12 yards out, close to the penalty spot. Hernandez had enough space between him and the defender to make a touch to control the ball and shot.

In the 11th minute, Fabien Garcia made the defensive stop of the match. Cutting down Hadji Barry with back to back slide tackles to block his shots, Michee Ngalina recovered the loose ball and took a shot that sailed just wide left, the score remained nil-nil.

In the 32nd minute, Jordan Farr made his save of the match, diving to his left to make a fantastic stop on a shot by Barry.

In the 41st minute, David Loera left with an injury and was subbed by PC. Loera had a 75% passing percentage and won four of six duels.

Second half, just three minutes in, Diedie Traore, who came in at half to replace Nicky Hernandez, made a run down the left side of the box and put an aerial cross for PC. The ball sailed just over PC who was attempting a header at goal from about six feet in front of the left post, ball hit Switchback defender, Matthew Mahoney and redirected into the back of the net, resulting in an own goal. San Antonio FC had the lead 1-0 in the 48th minute.

Khmiri makes a slide tackle on Zachary Zandi. Photo provided by SAFC Communications.

In the 54th minute, Samuel Adeniran almost scored his second of the season for SAFC and almost put the Alamo City Boys up in front by two. Adeniran made a run, juking Switchbacks defender Mahoney and taking a shot that was saved by the Switchbacks keeper, Jeff Caldwell.

Just moments later, Mitch Taintor would take a crack off a corner but Switchbacks keeper, Caldwell would make the save.

The ref finally blew the whistle nine minutes into stoppage time and San Antonio FC would leave Colorado Springs with their second win ever at Weinder Field and sitting on top of all the USL Championship.

Pause for concern as both David Loera and Diedie Traore went out with injuries during the match. No word on extent of injuries or when they will return to action. The two add to the growing injury list of Carter Manley (lower body injury), Elliot Collier (lower body injury), Jordy Delem (lower body injury) and Justin Dhillon (illness)

By the Numbers

Jordan Farr in action at Colorado Springs. Photo provided by SAFC Communications

Jordan Farr made three saves and collected his sixth clean sheet of the season, leading the Western Conference and tied for second in the league

Jassir Khmiri had an incredible 14 clearances, Fabien Garcia had six clearances and Mitch Taintor three clearances

The Clean Up Crew. Garcia, Taintor and Khmiri all sit in the top ten in Clearances; Garcia is 4th with 75, Taintor is 5th with 69 and Khmiri is 6th with 63.

Switchbacks controlled the ball for much of the match, out possessing SAFC 67.7% to 32.3%.

 Head Coach Alen Marcina

            (On the result…)

Incredibly proud of the team. To come here and keep a clean sheet, against one of the best attacking groups in the league, just so proud of the collective … What’s been consistent all year is their mentality. There’s a reason why we tagged them the mentality monsters. They are ultra-competitive, cohesive and resilient for 90+ minutes. For that I’m incredibly proud of the team.”

(On winning a match with playoff intensity…)

It’s a fantastic opportunity. This is one of the best team’s in the league. They were top of the table before tonight’s match. The other piece I want to note, is we conceded about 20 dead ball situations and we kept a clean sheet. That’s something we worked on all week. Just fantastic, the focus, the effort. The commitment to be first to the ball and again keeping the clean sheet.”

Defender Shannon Gomez

            (On his first start since May 14…)

I think everybody has the same mentality in the locker room. We preach mentality monsters. And I think when you’re called upon, whenever your shirt number’s called upon, no matter if you went on international duty, you were at training and grinding, everybody’s there grinding every single day. You know Alen [Marcina] is building 20 something guys of mentality monsters so when we’re called upon, regardless of what duties we were on we’re all ready to give 110% for the shirt. I was ready … whenever my name was called upon to just give 110% and defend the team and defend my brothers on the field today.”

Final Notes

San Antonio FC return home for a quick turn around for a mid-week match against Tulsa FC on Tuesday night. SAFC will face Charleston Battery for the time ever on July 2nd at home and Atlanta United 2 on July 16th to complete the three game homestand.

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