After managing a big win in their opening game, the San Antonio FC arrive at the friendly confines of Toyota Field for their home opener on Saturday, April 9. The game promises to be more intense than the first match, as they take on Swope Park Rangers in the club’s first ever home match.
Jason Johnson kicked off the San Antonio FC season with a perfect start, scoring two goals just 10 minutes after the team tore the Seattle Sounders 2 apart. The goals earned Johnson a place on the United Soccer League (USL) team of the week, joined by fellow goal scorer Fejiro Okiomah, who also made the team of the week bench.
Swope Park– who also got their first ever season off to a great start– will be a different story, coming to San Antonio on the back of two wins. The Rangers look dangerous going forward, with an attack of Kris Tyrpak and Dane Kelly proving fruitful. But they also remain responsible at the back, proving a difficult team to break down, two qualities that San Antonio did not face in Seattle last week.
Several familiar faces– two former Scorpions– are returning to San Antonio in the Swope Park line-up, Tyrpak up front and at the opposite end of the field goalkeeper Jon Kempin. Both players spent some time on loan with the Scorpions with Tyrpak closing out the 2015 season with the club scoring a number of impressive goals. Kempin also played two games on loan with the Scorpions in 2015, but was recalled to Kansas City later in the season.
There are no hard feelings toward San Antonio from either player, as both were on loan contracts that expired, but professional athletes always enjoy showing former cities what could have been. Tyrpak has been a constant threat already this season, but will return to a happy venue, having earned the San Antonio 2015 Soccer Goal of the Year.
Swope Park looks dangerous going forward, as they have scored four goals through their two matches, with Mark Anthony Gonzalez and Kevin Oliviera being the main source of assists through the early stages of the year. The Rangers have also been a strong side defensively, conceding just one goal, however Kempin may provide opportunities with his eagerness to leave his line. That combined record puts Swope Park third in the conference standings, but they were listed second in the league’s power rankings released on Tuesday.
For San Antonio FC to break down Swope Park, side goals will need to come from a different source in Saturday’s game. San Antonio will need to use the wings and get crosses into the box, and force Kempin off his line. San Antonio has the ability and talent to win on Saturday, but will need to put in an improved performance to get the win in their first ever home game.
A small number of tickets are still available for the game, and can be purchased from the club website. To hear more of The Rivard Report’s Chris Hockman’s thoughts, check out the Defending the Fort podcast here.
*Top Image: Midfielder Manolo Sanchez (left) and Midfielder Carlos Alvarez (right) compete for the ball at a practice. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone