All-time regular season series: First match.
San Antonio FC (6-7-7, 25pts) will close out its final three match away stint of the season in the desert just outside of Phoenix in Arizona. They are coming off a draw against the 2014 USL Champions, Sacramento Republic. The Alamo City boys struck first as Sébastien Thurière let off a long-range shot that was initially saved by Republic's goalkeeper, Evan Newton, but he couldn't hold on to the ball. The rebound fell neatly at the feet of SAFC forward César Elizondo who easily tapped it in to give SAFC the lead. The match ended in a draw, however, when a questionable penalty kick allowed SRFC's Octavio Guzman to step up to the spot and put the ball past Ford to equalize for Republic. San Antonio has gone 0-1-1 so far on the road trip and will be looking to end on a high note as they come back to Toyota Field next week.
Arizona United SC (7-6-8, 27pts) is returning home after defeating the OC Blues 3-1 on the road. They have won three matches out of their last five and are coming into this match on a two game win streak. United's leading goalscorer, Long Tan, has scored eight league goals this season accounting for almost 30% of his teams goals scored.
This will be the first of a back-to-back against Arizona United. These two teams will meet each other again just four days from now in a mid-week clash - this time at Toyota Field.
Q & A with Kyle Kepner of Firebird Rising:
Alamo Soccer: Since this is the first meeting between these two sides, what are some keys things San Antonio fans should know off the bat about Arizona United SC?
Kyle: I would have said that shutting down number ten Luke Rooney in the midfield was key to snuffing Arizona's primary mode of attack, but he's gotten himself suspended, so that's something SAFC won't have to mess with. More broadly, your players endure some pretty harsh summer weather there in south Texas, but there's nothing quite like playing in Arizona's dry heat. There is something debilitating about it that causes more wear and tear on visiting athletes, so I'd keep an eye on any SAFC player who is already battling some sort of fatigue or fitness issue.
Alamo Soccer: Diplo recently became a part-owner of Arizona United. How did he come about to support United? Has his inclusion in the ownership group brought more fans to matches?
Kyle: Club founder and co-chair Kyle Eng is well connected through his varied career in sports and media, and quite simply the timing was right. Diplo has really embraced soccer over the years, and was looking for just such an investment. Mr. Eng had carried the club for almost two years on his own, and this move will be big for the Arizona United's long-term growth.
I'll be honest, and might digress, but Diplo's presence on the business team has not increased attendance all on its own. Attendance is significantly below last season, for a host of less interesting reasons. In the long term, Diplo and fellow musician Pete Wentz, who also invested, will be a boon to the club's marketing efforts. I suspect that a turnaround in the club's fortunes at the gate are more a matter of when, than if, Diplo and Wentz begin to implement a plan.
Alamo Soccer: What Arizona player should San Antonio look out for?
Kyle: With Rooney out, the club will find different ways to get the ball to forwards Chris Cortez and Tyler Blackwood, often on the wings. I realize that's two players, but...oh, and keeper Carl Woszczynski won't easily be beat either, so any SAFC goals will likely come from close range. That's three, isn't it?
Alamo Soccer: Do you think playing back-to-back matches against the same opponent helps or hurts the teams?
Kyle: The short answer is, both. When scouting an opponent, there's no substitute for first-hand knowledge of how you match up, so both clubs should be better prepared next week when Round 2 gets underway at Toyota Field. There's also the adage that familiarity breeds contempt, and in this case, I could see any animosity that crops up Saturday spilling into the midweek fixture. We could have a full-blown rivalry by late Wednesday night, and emotions could be dictating part of the match. I'm all for inspired and exciting soccer, but as a fan, I won't go so far to say I want emotional decisions clouding my players' minds.
Alamo Soccer: Predictions?
Kyle: I'm saying Luke Rooney's name again, because he was so important in Arizona getting six points from two matches last week. Being without him presents a big opportunity for SAFC to own play in the middle of the field, and perhaps perform better against Arizona than recent foes have. It's almost too close to call, but if I were a betting man, I'd go with SAFC, 2-1.
Things to watch for:
I'd like to thank Kyle for introducing us to Arizona United SC & helping me preview tonight's match! You can reach Kyle on Twitter @KyleJKepner and visit his site, Firebird Rising (@firebirdsite).
The game is this Saturday, August 13th at 9:30pm CST. #AZvSA
How to watch:
San Antonio FC & the USL
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