All images: Steve Aibel, LittleOrcaSports.com / Pitch Black News
It seems like a lifetime ago now, but when the USL schedule dropped the first thing I looked for was when Sacramento and San Antonio would play. I was a little crushed to find that the two MLS hopefuls only meet once this season, but with the revamped schedule for 2017, the two are guaranteed a home and away matchup for next year at least.
Rafa Castillo looks to attack
Even though this game is completely meaningless in terms of MLS expansion, it’s hard not to be excited about it. Sacramento is absolutely the golden child of the USL West. They consistently rank among the best in attendance and are known for having a truly rabid fanbase. In an eerily similar sports market situation as San Antonio, Sacramento is all but guaranteed a spot in MLS in the next few years. Off the field, San Antonio will look to copy their success. On the field, San Antonio will look to use them as a stepping stone to get back into playoff contention.
The injury bug has crept back into the San Antonio FC locker room though. While the return of goalkeeper Josh Ford is a welcome one, midfielder Michael Reed exited last week’s match at half and wasn’t seen during the media portion of training Thursday. Reed’s fellow midfielder Rafa Castillo popped up on the injury report last week at Swope Park, but is expected to play in Sacramento.
If injured, Reed joins a list of players who San Antonio has relied on for stretches of games that are now unavailable. The Rafa-Reed midfield pairing has been a central factor in the unbeaten streak San Antonio went on this season. If Reed misses time, SAFC will be hopeful that the veteran Rafa can help his fellow central midfielder, likely Danny Garcia, settle into the role quickly.
The return of Captain and Goalkeeper Josh Ford is a welcome one for SAFC
Match Details: Game Twenty. Bonney Field. Sacramento, CA. Saturday 8/6/2016. Kickoff 10PM CDT
How To Watch: SanAntonioFC.com , USL Match Center
Keys for SAFC: Sacramento is a second half team, both scoring and giving up significantly more goals in the second half than the first. If San Antonio can break the defense down early, it will give them a headstart on what’s likely to be an exciting ending.
Player To Watch: If he starts in the center midfield opposite Rafa Castillo, Danny Garcia is the man I’m watching Saturday. Garcia did a solid job while paired with Reed, so hopefully the magic continues paired with Rafa. Both players can’t afford to be careless though as Garcia and Rafa are each 1 yellow card away from a one game suspension and fine.
Pitch Black Projected Starting XI (4-5-1): Ford(c); Palacios, McCarthy, Bradnock-Brennan, Cochrane; Salazar; Alvarez, Garcia, Castillo, Johnson; Elizondo
Score Prediction: Sacramento Republic FC 2-2 San Antonio FC