The Trinity men’s soccer concluded their spring season with a hard-fought 3-2 loss to the newly-founded San Antonio United Soccer Leauge professional team, San Antonio Football Club at Toyota Field last Thursday.
Rising Senior captain Paco Vasquez notched the Tigers second comeback goal in the 85th minute of play as he rocketed a shot from across the frame of the goal, off the far post and into the back right-hand corner of the goal past SAFC goalkeeper Josh Ford.
This would bring the Tigers just short of tying San Antonio’s newest professional club.
The Tigers conceded their first goal of the match in the 35th minute as SAFC’s Michael Reed drove home Bobby Moseley’s well struck cross with a header into the back of Trinity’s net.
SAFC’s starting eleven, including former Colorado Rapids midfielder Carlos Alvarez, former San Antonio Scorpion midfielder,Rafael Castillo and Chicago Fire defender Greg Cochrane, presented a formidable challenge to the Tigers early on in the match under the lights of Toyota Field.
The notable size difference between the professional players and the Tigers did not impact the overall competitiveness of the match.
Although SAFC was able to get on the scoreboard in the first half, netting two goals behind the Trinity defense, the Tigers’ ability to gain and maintain possession of the ball in the midfield created several scoring opportunities for Trinity’s Austin Michaelis, Ryan Hunter and Vasquez.
Hunter, a first year midfielder from Albuquerque, New Mexico discussed how this spring soccer season has allowed the Tigers several opportunities to set a high standard for the upcoming fall season. Over spring break the Tigers traveled to Brazil to compete against several professional and highly ranked club teams including, Boavista, Vasco De Gama, Botafogo and Zico Academy.
“Playing in Brazil prepared us for the scrimmage against SAFC because we had ample exposure to the pace and play of next-level teams,” Hunter said.
Hunter also mentioned that the Tigers were able to focus on their defensive organization in Brazil, which proved to be key to their performance against SAFC.
Against Trinity’s youthful starting eleven, SAFC’s pace and technicality on and off the ball in the offensive third posed a number of serious goal scoring opportunities during the first half of play. Many of these attempts were thwarted by underclassmen defenders Laurence Wyke, Guy Harris and Kellen Reid. Wyke, a first year from Bolton, England was a constant source of energy in the Tigers’ backfield, often combining with fellow first year Christian Sakshaug to move the ball into the attack.
Sakshaug, a 2015 All-American midfielder proved to play a critical role for the Tigers. He often dribbled around multiple SAFC midfielders with years of experience to challenge SAFC’s defensive line and forced SAFC’s former Orlando City (MLS) goalkeeper Josh Ford to make a save.
“Age really isn’t a factor for this program, and being a competitive player doesn’t necessarily mean you’re an older player,” said junior goalkeeper Todd Whittaker.
Whittaker managed to keep his defensive line organized and disciplined against SAFC’s experienced and explosive offensive line, limiting not only their shots on goal but also their opportunities for free kicks and corner kicks.
SAFC doubled their lead with a rebounded save that was flicked past the outstretched hand of Whittaker into the back of the net in the final moments of the first half by forward, Manolo Sanchez.
SAFC added a third and final goal in the second half when Jason Johnson scored a one touch shot to finish a pass from Carlos Alvarez. Trinity remained competitive and quickly scored their first goal, being able to pull two goals back in quick succession, but San Antonio would eventually hold on for the win.
“The spring is a chance for us to improve our athletic and technical ability individually,” Whittaker said.
As the team looks ahead to the fall season, Whittaker seemed confident that his team’s playing style and collective identity will allow individual players to contribute, regardless of their age, to play an impactful role on the field.
This spring game against San Antonio’s budding professional soccer club was yet another excellent opportunity for the Tigers to grow and build upon their competition in Brazil over spring break.
“The level of soccer in Brazil is so high, all the players have excellent technique, athleticism and tactical understanding,” Whittaker said.
Additionally, Whittaker made note that the teams the Tigers faced in Brazil were especially competitive.
Fellow junior, Callum Squires echoed Whittaker’s thoughts, saying, “Brazil was an incredible experience on and off the field, and competing at such a high level was fantastic preparation for next season.”
SAFC added a third goal in the second half as Trinity’s defense was caught in a moment of confusion when Jason Johnson finished a pass from Carlos Alvarez. Trinity’s Reid and Vasquez were quick to score a goals of their own in quick succession late in the second half, but San Antonio would eventually hold on long enough to preserve the 3-2 victory.
SAFC will begin their inaugural season in the United Soccer League this Sunday in Seattle. The club’s home opener will be the following week on Saturday, April 9 at 7:30 p.m.
For Trinity, the men’s team will conclude their successful spring season with a final week of training sessions in preparation for their fall 2016 campaign.
“The goal for the fall is always to win the national championship,” Hunter said. “I think everyone is also focused on getting better and stronger individually this spring to help achieve this goal of a national championship.”