SAFC makes a redemption run in the USL playoffs

An overview of a phenomenal season and how they got here

When people think of San Antonio, they typically think of hot weather, Gregg Popovich and tacos. Soccer, not so much. But hidden within the electric culture of our city lies a fiery and passionate team: SAFC. This professional team plays in the Western Conference of the USL (United Soccer League) Championship, the second-highest level of professional football in the United States, behind MLS (Major League Soccer).

In 2015, the City of San Antonio, Bexar County and Spurs Sports and Entertainment partnered and invested nine million dollars to purchase Toyota Field. A bid to join the MLS, which had been looking to expand into Texas, was put into place. Things were looking promising for our city and the growth of soccer in it until Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt decided to move his MLS club from Columbus to Austin after concerns about lagging revenues.

Less than a year later, Austin City Council had plans in place to build a new stadium, effectively pushing San Antonio out of the MLS conversation. Many San Antonians, especially Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, felt that dirty politics had taken place after San Antonio had gone through the whole process of making a bid to the MLS and was snubbed by a city that wasn’t even planning on joining the MLS yet. However, while the MLS is out of reach, for now, SAFC continues to make its own path for soccer in San Antonio and has not disappointed.

This season, SAFC earned first place in the Western Conference regular season, with 24 wins, five draws and five losses in 34 matches played, tying the USL single-season record for wins. For the second year in a row, they have reached the Western Conference finals after winning the conference semifinal last weekend against the Oakland Roots. A goal by Samuel Adeniran in the opening two minutes christened the game, assisted by Santiago Patiño. Later on, in the 75th minute, Adeniran would return the favor by assisting the first of Patiño’s two goals that would eventually go on to seal the match in a 3-0 victory.

Maddie Belvis, SAFC fan and Trinity University sophomore, has been a fan for as long as she can remember. “I’ve been a fan and season ticket member holder of SAFC since the start of the club [6 years ago]. My favorite part is being involved in the crowd (screaming, discussing plays just made). The halftime shows are also really entertaining. However, I really enjoy when we score because of the excitement and fireworks,” Belvis said.

During the regular season, top scorer Adeniran led the team with 11 goals, good for 11th in USL’s Western Conference, and added a goal in one playoff match played so far. Alongside him, forwards Santiago Patiño and Ignacio Bailone have had significant contributions to the goals scored, with eight and six regular season goals, respectively.

In the midfield, veteran Brazilian Victor Giro, commonly referred to as PC, has been a key player. However, Ghanian central midfielder Mohammed Abu and his partner to the left, Connor Maloney, have been the heartbeat of this skillful midfield.

Battening down the hatches for SAFC, a stout and impassive defense are composed of center-back powerhouses Fabien Garcia and Mitchell Taintor, the true warriors of the team. Combined, they have a total of 230 clearances during the season. They are backed by star goalkeeper Jordan Farr, USL All-League First Team honoree, who has 16 clean sheets this season, proving this defense is hard to penetrate.

SAFC is seeking redemption after last season when the team failed to win their Western Conference final. In a heartbreaking penalty shootout, Orange County FC just edged San Antonio and would go on to win the championship in the next game. This year, SAFC will face the Colorado Springs Switchbacks on Nov. 6 at Toyota Field in front of what will no doubt be an electrifying crowd of fans.

“I feel very confident in our players and coaching staff for the playoffs, and students can easily get involved by going to games with cheap tickets usually ranging from seven to ten dollars,” said Belvis, who will be in attendance this Friday when SAFC takes on the Switchbacks.