Match Day 6 will see San Antonio FC hit the road for the annual Fiesta Road Trip. The first of two road matches takes them to Fresno, one of the two brand new teams in USL West this season. We talked to Angel Moreno (@anhelllll) of Fresno FC to get the scoop on one of the newest clubs in USL. Here we go into another edition of the Six Pointer Preview.
- 1 – (RB90) First of all – welcome to the USL family. It wasn’t that long ago that SAFC was just getting started in USL and we remember that first season pretty fondly. What are your initial impressions of having pro soccer in Fresno and of USL in general?
(AM) Thanks for the warm welcome, Aaron. The arrival of professional soccer was a pipe dream for a lot of fans here in the San Joaquin Valley. Our USL debut on March 17th still feels unreal because I never thought I’d see the day pro soccer would call Fresno home, even dating back to my days a reporter covering the club’s potential arrival for over a year. I think pro soccer is something Fresno has long hungered for and so far, the reception has been great. The USL is a very strong league, and I think Fresno FC is capable of elevating the sports culture in the region.
- 2 – The team has definitely held their own here in the early going. We definitely like that you beat the team that bounced us from the playoffs last season, OKC. What were the expectations for the team this year and are they exceeding them so far?
Obviously, every team wants to win the USL Cup. But I think, realistically, we want to make the postseason and see from there. So far, we’re meeting our expectations. Everyone is new from our GM to the coaches, the players and we’re learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses at an incredibly fast rate. The first win against OKC Energy on the road was incredible, and there was a buzz across the city as we watched from home. Each week, we’ve seen our club’s play improve so that only fuels those expectations further.
- 3 – Fresno seems to have a fairly well-balanced attack. Jemal Johnson has two goals, Juan Pablo Caffa has two goals, Bradley Kamdem Fewo has two assists – who’s the biggest threat for Fresno and what do you make of the offense in general?
Having Jemal Johnson and Juan Pablo Caffa, and the experience and knowledge they have is massive for this club. And the guidance of a world-class goalscorer in assistant coach Robert Earnshaw can really make this club dangerous. Our offense is adapting and evolving with each match, and there’s been an improvement. It’s tough to tell so early in the season, but it’s reassuring to see a balanced effort from so many individuals.
- 4 – Let’s talk about the game-day experience at Fresno. Fresno plays at Chukchansi Park, which is a baseball stadium. The fan response seems to have been pretty great – but how has the field looked for soccer? And is there any talk of possibly moving to a soccer-specific stadium in the near future?
Chukchansi Park is a gorgeous venue right in downtown Fresno, and the game-day experience has definitely improved from the days of the PDL Fresno Fuego. The sod placement over the entire infield allows fans to be right up close to the action, as opposed to playing in the outfield like other USL clubs who also play in baseball stadiums. The club’s vision is to eventually move into a soccer-specific stadium, as required by the USL. It’s only a matter of when.
- 5 – Fresno is the official affiliate of Whitecaps from MLS. What has that partnership been like so far and how do you think it will affect the team this season, if at all?
The partnership is off to a great start, in my opinion. Fresno has been able to field talent in players Noah Verhoeven, Matthew Baldisimo and Terran Campbell, as well as have head assistant coach Robert Earnshaw help our strikers. It was sad to see Sean Melvin signed to an MLS Homegrown contract, but it’s a growing relationship that I’m confident will be beneficial for both sides.
- 6 – Tell us something we should know about Fresno FC.
Probably one of the coolest things our marketing department has come up with is the Fresno FC paleta cart that we modified to sell merch out of on match days and community events.
Current Form (W-D-L)
San Antonio FC – L W D D L, 2018 Road Record 0-1-1
Fresno FC – D W W D D, 2018 Home Record 1-2-1
San Antonio FC – 5 points, GF 4, GA 7, -3 GD, 12th in USL West
Fresno FC – 9 points, GF 8, GA 7, +1 GD, 8th in USL West
All-Time History (W-D-L)
This will be the first meeting between San Antonio FC and Fresno FC. 0-0-0.
Since SAFC haven’t played Fresno FC before, here’s a look at the Match Highlights from their wild match on Wednesday night vs Tulsa.
The Matchup (W-D-L)
San Antonio FC (1-2-2) at Fresno FC (2-3-1) #FRSvSA
Chukchansi Park, Sunday, April 22
Kickoff 8:00 pm Central Time
Where to Watch: ESPN+
Key to victory
San Antonio FC will line up against a new team for the first time in 2018. And while Fresno FC is a far cry from Whitecaps 2, they are the new affiliate of the MLS team. San Antonio will definitely be sad to see Whitecaps 2 depart USL as they went a perfect three wins and zero losses against the Canadian side. But enough about what was. Let’s talk about what is, and Fresno is off to a decent start for an expansion franchise.
Fresno has been a mixed bag all around, but particularly at home, earning one win, two draws, and one loss so far. Of common opponents so far this season, both teams tied LA2 and San Antonio defeated Saint Louis, while Fresno came away with a tie against them. For whatever that is worth. Their goal differential was similar to SAFC’s at a plus one, but that was before SA got thumped by three goals on Saturday night. Fresno’s average possession is a shade in the green at 53%. Fresno is starting to pick up the goal-scoring pace, now having put in more than one goal three times this season, compared to SA’s one. Keep an eye out for Danny Barrera. The former Sacramento Republic star transferred to Fresno in January. He has yet to get going with his new club, but it’s only a matter of time for the USL veteran.
Playing on a baseball field it’s quite likely the playing surface could factor into the game, and from the SA side, perhaps into who even takes the pitch and who does not. And Fresno will be coming into the match off a short week, as for the second time this season San Antonio will have an opponent coming off a mid-week match, while SAFC has the luxury of a few days extra rest. San Antonio will take any extra advantage they can get, and that could be just as important as any other. And it was a wild one for Fresno on Wednesday night. Moments away from victory, Tulsa scored on an unbelievable back-heel breakaway to equalize in the dying moments of the match. Fresno will definitely feel like they let two points slip away. If you missed them above, the highlights of that match are definitely worth watching.
This will be the first non-Saturday match of the season for SAFC, as the game was moved from its original date of April 21st. Eight more such games await on the schedule this season, including another one next week, as San Antonio will travel to Las Vegas the following Friday night.
For San Antonio FC, it’s all about earning points however they can get them. After suffering their worst home loss ever last weekend against Orange County, and winning only one of their opening five matches, there’s almost nowhere to go but up. It’s still early in the season, but San Antonio can’t afford to let many more points slide away if they really want to stay in contention for a top-four playoff spot. Between the field and their recent form, we’re hard-pressed to call for an SAFC victory. We’re calling it a draw for this one.
San Antonio FC – 1
Fresno FC – 1
Did you know?
San Antonio FC GK Josh Ford holds the SAFC record for best single-season save percentage, saving 77.9% of his shots in their inaugural season of 2016.