USL Week 6 Recap

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Portland Timbers 2 (T2)-0   San Antonio FC (SAFC)-4    (Providence Park, Portland, OR)

PORT:  None  SAFC:  Billy Forbes-20 (Cesar Elizondo), Cesar Elizondo-34, Zachary Herivaux-90+1 (Devin Vega), Cesar Elizondo-90+3

Three Observations:

Billy Forbes Strikes Again and SAFC keeps winning

Billy Forbes scored again (his 6th in 7 games) to tie for the league lead in goals in the Friday night blowout in Portland.  SAFC is now 6-0-1, four points clear of Real Monarchs, after their win over Swope Park last night in Utah.  A sweep for SAFC in a three-game, 7 day road trip a couple thousand miles away. A plus-14 goal differential through 7 games….6 more than anybody else in the league.  Only 4 goals conceded.  Life is good for them so far.

Independent USL franchises can certainly compete with MLS sponsored teams 

There is an ongoing discussion about whether the conflicting strategic goals of MLS sponsored franchises (wholly owned and hybrid) and independent teams (like SAFC) will eventually diverge to a point where significant tension will be created within the league. For now, the marriage has been beneficial for both sides.  One narrative early on in the partnership, was that MLS USL sides would dominate because of the young and upcoming talent that would be provided from the parent club.  This played out last year as NY Red Bulls II ran away with the league and both USL Championship teams were MLS owned.  The other side of the narrative is that the independent teams, because of the experience and stability that they will eventually be able to establish in their roster, would triumph over MLS clubs who are primarily trying to develop young players for their first team.  The domination by SAFC over three MLS development-heavy sides on this Cascadia road trip, certainly supports this side of the narrative.  This potential dichotomy will be played out over time, especially as the new USL D3 is introduced in 2019 to further complicate things.  For now though, SAFC has played five games against MLS sponsored teams this season and won them all.

A+ Grade For Roster Offseason Construction

SAFC’s extremely short lead time to build a roster prior to their inaugural season, combined with a ridiculous number of injuries to key players, led to the club barely missing the USL playoffs in 2016.  For a club with MLS expansion aspirations, on-field success is extremely important to building momentum and excitement in the community.  As a result, the roster-creation process coming into this season had to be done right.  We are close to one-quarter of the way through the season and the roster construction grade is a clear A+ so far.  Credit to Head Coach Darren Powell and his staff and Managing Director Tim Holt for the early-season results.  Also credit to the management of Rayo OKC for the meltdown they created last season, setting the stage for Billy Forbes to return to San Antonio this year.

SAFC returns home to face Sacramento Republic this Saturday night.

Rio Grande Valley FC (RGV FC) Toros-   OKC Energy-    (H-E-B Park-Edinburg)

RGV: Eric Bird-8 (Joe Holland), Joe Holland-38, Jose Escalante-68  OKC: None

Three Observations:

On Target Was The Difference

The Toros were out-shot 13-9.  Eight of these nine shots were on goal.  Three of these shots on goal turned into goals.  OKC Energy pretty much dominated all of the other statistics, except that only one of their thirteen shots were on frame.  Why RGV FC won last night doesn’t require a lot of explanation.

Dynamo loanees continue to score the majority of the goals 

A couple of weeks ago, Memo Rodriquez came down to the Valley and scored twice in a 3-0 win over Colorado Springs.  Last night 2017 Dynamo first-round draft pick Joe Holland scored his first professional goal with a nice left foot volley off of a poor OKC clearance.  After coming close many times this season, Jose Escalante finally scored his first goal of the season in the 68th minute to put the game out of reach.  This came three minutes after Escalante was stoned by Energy goalkeeper Cody Laurendi on a blast off of a corner kick.  At that point, Escalante, who has been denied by posts and other goalkeepers all year, probably wondered if he would ever get another goal.  Thankfully this came to fruition shortly thereafter when he out-muscled an OKC defender and left the the goalkeeper flatfooted with a nice left foot finish.

A Change at Forward

Toros head coach Junior Gonzalez needed to shake things up after another shut-out loss last week against Tulsa.  He opted to move Eric Bird from his usual attacking midfield slot up top, sending Ruben Luna to the bench.  The coach was rewarded when Bird ran onto a nice through ball from Holland and rounded Laurendi to score in the 8th minute.

In an interview with Greg Luca of McAllen’s The Monitor coach Gonzalez discussed why he made the lineup changes.

“I felt with him (Bird) and Joseph (Holland) working as a tandem up there, that we would be able to get pressure on their two center backs, and it turned out to be the right tactics for the night.” 

The Toros have another early season break next week.  Their next match will be at home in two weeks against Swope Park Rangers .

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