Season preview of SAFC, reigning league champs

After their first game of the season, San Antonio Football Club (SAFC) just might win it all

San Antonio professional sports often boil down to just the Spurs. However, the city’s iconic basketball team is not the only professional team operating out of the city. San Antonio also has the San Antonio Football Club (SAFC), a major league football (or soccer) team in the United Soccer League (USL), which recently started its season on March 11 with a match against the Oakland Roots.

In the previous season, the SAFC finished first in the Western Conference and won both the Western Conference championship and the USL championship final. In the first games of the new season, the continuation of this winning momentum has come into question. In a friendly match against the El Paso Locomotive, the SAFC lost 0-2, breaking their previous year’s winning streak. The team did, however, win against the Roots 3-1 in the first official match of the regular season.

To understand the team’s future prospects, we must first take a look at their roster. During the winter transfer window, the team lost two of their top-scoring and assisting players, forward Santiago Patino and forward Samuel Adeniran. This loss creates the risk of a decrease in the team’s offensive pressure, which can affect not only their ability to score but also the team’s ability to maintain possession. Looking at the statistics of the previous two games, we can see a decrease in possession, which now rests below 40%.

That is until we look at the previous season, as the SAFC often has a low possession rate, with many games having possession time dipping below 50%, and even reaching as low as 36% in a game against the Roots the previous season. Despite this, the team wins most of their games, outscoring their opponents by an average of one to two per game. So, the team’s lack of possession does not necessarily correlate to a lack of playmaking, but instead a prioritization of offensive efficiency.

A team’s offensive efficiency is dependent upon players who can keep up with both the pace of their teammates and the ball to spread the defense thin. This brings up the problem of the recent loss of two of the club’s best players, two important links of the offensive line. This hole in the roster, though, seems to be filled because, in their match against the Roots, a new player for the team stepped up to help lead the team to victory. Center-back Lamar Batista assisted midfielder Niko Hansen and scored two goals of his own: one being from a corner and the other a long-range shot from outside the goal box.

Although Batista has yet to formally sign his contract with the team, he will be a big boost to the team due to his skills and previous experience once the USL approves the official contract. In an interview with the USL press, head coach Alen Marcina stated his excitement about what Batista can bring to the team.

“He brings speed, is aggressive in one-versus-one duels and demonstrates the ability to break opposition lines off a vertical pass or dribble. He demonstrates a growth mindset with his willingness and commitment to learn and execute our game model principles,” Marcina said.

Batista wasn’t the only player acquired by SAFC. The team’s roster has several players who had prior experience on the field, with many such as Batista coming from the MLS through player loans. This experience can help counteract the loss of the previous year’s top scorers and assists with new talent. While the results of these changes in the team’s roster will be seen definitively in the future, for now, this move has yielded positive results in the early stages of the season.

With the performance we have been given in the first games of the season, it seems the team has adapted quickly to the changes presented to them. From filling a roster with new, experienced players to continuing their winning formula, the SAFC seems to be heading in the right direction. As such, we can predict that if the team continues with the good form and quick thinking it has shown in its early games the season will be a winning one much like the last.

With their win against the Roots and their more recent tied game with Loudoun United, the stage is set for the rest of the regular season. The team’s next game will be a special one-dollar Beer Night presented by Michelob ULTRA against the Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC at 7:30 p.m. on March 25.