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2017 USL Season Preview: San Antonio FC

With a full cycle in the books, the men of the Mission City club look for consistent success in Year 2.

Cesar Elizondo
Steve Aibel, LittleOrcaSports.com

Year Founded: 2016

Affiliation: New York City Football Club

2016 record: 10-12-8, 10th place in Western Conference

2016 playoffs: Did not qualify

Key additions: Billy Forbes, Sebastian Ibeagha, Cyprian Hedrick

Key departures: Franck Tayou, Carlos Alvarez, Josh Ford

Projected/ideal starting XI (4-1-4-1): Matt Cardone; Ben Newnam, Sebastian Ibeagha, Cyprian Hedrick, Greg Cochrane; Pecka; Kris Tyrpak, Rafa Castillo, Michael Reed, Billy Forbes; Cesar Elizondo

San Antonio FC will seek to avoid a sophomore slump as they enter their second season as the Mission City’s only professional soccer club. Their 2016 preseason was spent frantically building a roster while cleaning out the mess made by Toyota Field’s previous tenant, San Antonio Scorpions FC, both metaphorically and literally. The 2016 roster was made up primarily of players who hadn’t found a team late in the USL preseason, and unfortunately it was reflected in the regular season record. A few key midseason pickups helped keep SAFC in the hunt for the playoffs, but in the end they lost their ticket to the postseason when rivals RGVFC handed San Antonio a 0-3 loss to end the regular season.

With a full year under their collective belt, Head Coach Darren Powell and Managing Director / former USL President Tim Holt have put together a very respectable roster. 11 of 28 players returned to the 2017 roster, but many have been relegated to a reserve role after getting significant usage in 2016. The biggest upgrades have come to the backline and midfield, while the most glaring weak point is the lack of a dominant striker. Given the full season of preparation time, 2017 could be the first true look of what this club intends to be going forward. The Spurs Sports and Entertainment-owned team will continue fighting on two fronts, both proving they deserve an MLS expansion team and building a USL roster capable of bringing home the club’s first hardware.

Why you should watch San Antonio FC in 2017:

SAFC’s attacking midfield and backline have undergone serious upgrades this offseason. The additions of central defenders Sebastian Ibeagha and Cyprian Hedrick will help to provide goalkeeper Matt Cardone support while the addition of Ben Newnam at right back provides a capable option opposite of 2016 SAFC standout left back Greg Cochrane. Expected starting wingers Billy Forbes and Kris Tyrpak are two of the highest performing in their position at this level of play. Time will tell how the roster holds up, but this is a squad built to take exciting long shots and push quick attacking play from their outside players.

3 players to watch:

Billy Forbes: Joining fellow former-San Antonio Scorpions players Cesar Elizondo, Rafa Castillo, and Matt Cardone after a season at the ill-fated Rayo OKC, Forbes has been vocal about his excitement to be back in SA.

Devin Vega: Our friends at Big D Soccer phrased it best, saying SAFC signed Vega “out from under FC Dallas.” The young San Antonio native looked to be headed to the MLS club on a Homegrown Player deal, but instead came to his hometown club. The rookie could see significant time this year after his solid preseason showings.

Cesar Elizondo: Elizondo is arguably the club’s best central midfielder. But after an extremely late departure of striker Franck Tayou, who was tied as the club’s leading scorer in 2016, Elizondo will be asked to play forward once again. His performance will help decide if the club’s 2016 scoring issues follow them to 2017.

The 2017 season will be a success if...

The new attacking players are able to score at least slightly more frequently than the 2016 roster. SA scored 36 times in the 30-game 2016 USL season, finishing with an even goal differential, but most of the goals came late in the season when the club was behind the pack. From April 9th to June 11th SA won just a single USL match while simultaneously holding opponents to one or fewer goals in all but one of the contests. With an already solid defense getting several upgrades, it is going to be up to the attacking-minded players to make a difference.

Read More:

San Antonio FC Becomes Affiliate of New York MLS Club Rivard Report

Ownership Key to San Antonio FC’s Pitch for Major League Soccer Rivard Report

Speculation: Franck Tayou is Not Returning to San Antonio FC Pitch Black News