It has been a long, strange, trip, and now it’s over. SAFC will be returning home April 30th to defend its home pitch after a three game road stand that produced a draw and two losses – a stint that, but for a few unlucky bounces, could’ve very well yielded a draw and 2 wins for the USL’s newest team. The effort, talent, and coaching are evident, though, and even though the results were not optimal, this new club has to have garnered respect from the rest of the league by its performance during an away campaign that may prove to be the most challenging of the season.
The club fought nobly yesterday in Colorado Springs versus a Switchbacks side that is admittedly tough to beat at home (they’ve yet to lose there this season), and appears to be one of the strongest teams in the entire league. San Antonio’s back line continued to solidify and rally around stalwarts McCarthy and McBride, while keeper and captain Josh Ford continued to prove that he is among the best at his position, coming up with no less than 6 saves in the first half alone.
Colorado Springs were keen to get on the board early, and in the 8th minute a corner from midfielder Rony Argueta bounced around the box and landed at the feet of forward Martin Maybin who blasted an easy shot at a wide open goal, but as the opportunity was helped by three offside Switchbacks, what appeared to be an early goal was negated. SAFC, too, had their chances. The first of which came in the 24th when Alvarez came up with the a takeaway and drove toward the goal for a 1 v 1 against backup keeper Billy Thompson (starter Gorrick went out in the 17th after colliding with Johnson who clearly got the better of the apparently fragile keeper), but couldn’t manage to get on the board as Thompson dropped on-time and came up with a crucial save.
SAFC defense was absolutely swarming the rest of the half, Rafa Castillo keeping the pressure off the back line, who when called upon, were eager to meet the advance of Switchback attackers. McCarthy in particular was impressive, imposing his will on anyone within range not wearing white. The only legitimate threats came off the foot of Switchback forward Miguel Gonzales, who shot high and missed in the 26th and again pulled the trigger in the 40th at the end of a focused attack, but was off the mark a second time. A minute later a goal kick by Ford was blocked by Maybin, but luckily he was able to retain possession and avert disaster.
The half wouldn’t end, however, without one more San Antonio chance. In the 44th minute Araujo (who came on for an injured Fejiro Okiomah in the 39th) played a beauty of a ball into the 6 yard box, finding Alvarez in stride, who got off a shot past a defender, but the backup keeper Thompson was there for the save yet again.
The latter half, as is typical, saw SAFC attempt more comprehensive attacks on offense. In the 48th minute Alvarez found Castillo in the middle, who got it to Araujo on the offensive right side, but a strong shot missed right. The passing was crisp, though, and it was good to see the chemistry develop on this side of the field. And later in the 54th, Alvarez, again in position and at the helm of a 3 on 3 attack, looked for an opening, but Switchbacks defender Christian Ibeagha came up huge to stop the effort.
The wind was definitely an obstacle in this half, and when an early Ford goal kick sailed out of bounds just shy of midfield, the Colorado Springs home field advantage began to show itself. Four minutes later Ford had possession, rolled it out to McBride whose clearance was blocked, and the opportunistic Maybin, who had been threatening in these scenarios all match, took it past for an easy score. Colorado Springs 1-0.
The rest of the half played out as it did in the previous game, SAFC becoming more aggressive on offense as the minutes dwindled, bringing the back line forward more often and attempting to get around the defense by attacking from the wings. In the 81st, on one such attack from outside, Palacios got off a fantastic-looking cross intended for Araujo, but the effort failed to produce, and the score would remain 1-0 until the final whistle.
Aside from the gaffe that led to the easy Switchback score, SAFC seems to be a defensive-minded club, manning a defense which continues to develop and impress. And, despite not coming away with any wins on this inaugural road trip, the club has shown plenty of talent and heart, and the adversity faced during this outing will undoubtedly pay dividends as the season progresses.
The Tulsa Roughnecks will be in town this upcoming weekend for what will be a well-deserved return to friendly confines for our club. Tulsa (1-3-1), whose only win has come against Rio Grande Valley, will be looking to add to their list of victories recorded in Texas, so supporters need to be out in force to give them a proper welcome. This match also marks the beginning of a timely stretch of home matches, 4 out of the next 5 being played at Toyota Field.