From the sale of Toyota Field and the subsequent death of the San Antonio Scorpions, San Antonio FC emerged as the future of soccer in the Alamo City. Owned by Spurs Sports & Entertainment (SS&E), SAFC joins their family that includes the 5-time NBA champion Spurs, their D-League team the Austin Spurs, the AHL Rampage, and the WNBA Stars. Tasked with bringing Major League Soccer (MLS) to San Antonio, SS&E are utilizing their experience and know-how to make that dream a reality.
Unlike their predecessor, SAFC will be playing in the U.S Soccer sanctioned 3rd division, the United Soccer League (USL). The league is made up of 29 teams, 15 in the Western Conference and 14 in the Eastern Conference. The league has one expansion club ready to go for the 2017 season (Reno 1868 FC) with another possible club (Austin Aztex) to rejoin the fold if they can find a suitable stadium. The league is the official developmental league of Major League Soccer (MLS) and 11 of the teams are owned and operated by a MLS club. The other teams are independent teams with some of them affiliating with the MLS clubs that don't own their own USL teams. San Antonio FC is not affiliated with any MLS teams.
San Antonio will play a 30 game season with 15 home games and 15 away games. SAFC will only play teams in the Western Conference, none from the Eastern Conference. The schedule pits San Antonio against its closest regional rivals multiple times, which will hopefully build strong rivalries with the new expansion club.
San Antonio signed Carlos Alvarez as its first player on February 2nd. As the roster has filled in over the past month, there have been a mixture of youth and experience from all levels added. A few familiar faces from the former San Antonio Scorpions, along with former players from Elon University will hopefully give head coach Darren Powell a head start in his abbreviated pre-season.
After only just a month together and 8 pre-season games, this is what a starting XI may look like:
While San Antonio have yet to play a game in the league, the strength of this team looks to be on the defensive side of the ball. With an abundance of depth on the back line, Greg Cochrane and Stephen McCarthy, both with MLS experience, will be the keys to keeping the defense strong while the offensive begins to jell.
Depth at the forward position isn't very deep. J.J., Shaun Chin, and Manolo Sanchez will be tasked with carrying the load at the onset. Finishing prowess might be where the most opportunity to improve may come from. In the one game versus a USL opponent, the San Antonio attack failed to score and couldn't create many opportunities - don't look too much into pre-season games, but it is something to keep an eye out for.
In its first test against another USL opponent, San Antonio FC came away with a win and a clean sheet. The lone goal was an own-goal scored by a Toros defender. A hard back-pass, helped by the wind, beat the goalie. The rest of the match screamed pre-season as both teams looked unpolished. The Toros kept most of the possession throughout the game but San Antonio's defensive shape "came together quite well" today according to head coach Darren Powell.
The team will play two more pre-season matches before the USL season starts and "the focus of the guys is quite good", said Powell as they get ready for Sounders 2 on April 3rd.
The newest USL expansion team revealed their alternate kit last night at an event at Toyota Field. The team will wear Nike kits - all white away kits and a neon green goalkeeper kit. The all white look is a safe yet classic kit to take on the road. With such a short turnaround to get a customized kit for the 2016 season, the alternate kit was always going to be a Nike generic, especially since SAFC begins the season on the road in Seattle. The home kit will be revealed later, before the April 9 home opener, according to Managing Director, Tim Holt.
Also announced last night was that Toyota would continue to have the naming rights to Toyota Field and would have their logo on the front of the kits and other merchandise.
Both Nike and Toyota were the manufactures and sponsors, respectively, for the former San Antonio Scorpions as well. Their sponsorship of SAFC does not come as a surprise.
SAFC open the 2016 season on the road in Seattle on April 3 and play their home opener on April 9 vs Swope Park Rangers.
- Soccer On!
San Antonio FC & the USL
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