Match Day 11 will see San Antonio FC back on the road for the first meeting of 2018 against second-year USL team Reno 1868. We caught up with Aldo Amato, PR and Digital Manager from Reno 1868 (@reno1868fc) to get the inside news on their 2018 season so far. Here we go into another Six Pointer Preview.
- 1 – (RB90) San Antonio and Reno strike me as similar teams in style and results. Both struggle to score and both play pretty good defense most weeks. We were also both bounced from the 2017 playoffs by OKC Energy. And both are riding unbeaten streaks – San Antonio at 5 games, Reno at 7. What has been going right for Reno during their stretch?
(AA) Well as you said, the defense has turned things around for Reno in the past few weeks. The club is built to score but Reno was having trouble conceding goals earlier in the season. After a few lineup changes and the emergence of defensive midfielder Kevin Partida, Reno has been able to concede fewer and fewer goals. That has allowed the depth to develop.
- 2 – Keeping with the similar theme – both of these teams lost their 2017 leading scorers in the offseason. Billy Forbes was tough enough on San Antonio, but how has Reno adjusted to losing USL MVP Dane Kelly to MLS?
Reno is holding the ball a little bit more than it did in 2017. Losing Dane Kelly to the MLS is obviously hard. But Reno has similar scorers both in the Starting XI and coming off the bench. Guys like Jerry van Ewijk have been able to gel and find their groove in recent weeks.
- 3 – Daniel Musovski is leading the attack for Reno so far this season. Give us a little background on him and what has made him so successful this season?
Musovski was a first-round pick for the San Jose Earthquakes in the most recent MLS SuperDraft. He’s not a burner and is still developing as a player. But he’s tenacious and a poacher from inside the box. All of his goals this year have come inside the box. He has potential to be a dangerous No. 9 by the end of the year.
- 4 – Let’s talk about Manager Ian Russell – a 2x MLS Cup winner with the Earthquakes. How advantageous is it to have a manager with that kind of on-field pedigree, and now that he is into year two, what would you say is taking shape in terms of his coaching style?
Coach Russell is every American soccer fan’s dream. American spectators love goals and scoring. So does Russell who builds his teams into offensive juggernauts. He’s extremely brilliant when it comes to making tactical changes and despite an earlier slow start, his genius has shown in recent weeks with Reno going unbeaten.
- 5 – Reno is known as the world’s biggest little city. Everything is bigger in Texas. Who has the edge in this match?
Well, I’ll hold off on making a score prediction for the sake of being impartial. I will say this match is highly anticipated in Reno. San Antonio ALWAYS brings a strong team so it’s one of the marquee matches in the Biggest Little City.
- 6 – Tell us something we should know about Reno 1868.
The best thing about this club and this city is that both equally represent each other. It’s a small city and the team really embraces that. We have a real outgoing, active team in the community. The lads love to give back and interact with the fans and Reno residents.
Current Form (W-D-L)
San Antonio FC – D W W D D, 2018 Road Record 1-3-1
Reno 1868 – D D D W D, 2018 Home Record 1-1-3
San Antonio FC: 14 points, GF 10, GA 10, 0 GD, 8th in USL West
Reno 1868: 14 points, GF 13, GA 15, GD – 2, 10th in USL West
All-Time History (W-D-L)
Saturday will mark the third meeting between the two teams. Each won one match in Reno’s inaugural campaign in 2017 and each team won at home. All-time the series is 1-0-1.
6/23/18 @ SA
San Antonio did not enjoy themselves the first time they visited Reno last August 12th, losing a one-sided affair 2-0. San Antonio racked up 7 yellow cards on the night, and Reno had goals from Luis Felipe Fernandes and substitute Brian Brown who scored two minutes after entering the match.
The Matchup (W-D-L)
San Antonio FC (3-5-2) at Reno 1868 (3-5-3) #RNOvSA
Greater Nevada Field, Saturday, May 26th
Kickoff 9:30 pm Central Time
Where to Watch: ESPN+
Key to victory
After a dramatic PK win in the Open Cup on Wednesday night, San Antonio will look to complete a six-match unbeaten month of May in Reno this Saturday night. If they manage to see that out, they will also have gone two full calendar months with only one defeat. With that kind of run, you would think San Antonio might be further up the table than eighth but the draws are what has held them down. And speaking of draws, that brings us to the Reno matchup.
Similar is the word of the week for this meeting. When SAFC meets Reno 1868 this Saturday both teams might feel like they’re seeing a mirror image of each other. Both teams have three wins. Both teams have five draws. Both teams are sitting on 14 points. Both teams are riding lengthy unbeaten streaks (SA 5, Reno 7) and both teams won’t be thrilled with their previous league match. San Antonio losing an early lead and drawing with one of the weaker teams in the West at home. And Reno, who also lost a lead at home and had to settle with one point against Seattle after a late equalizer.
Reno started the year with three straight losses at home, but their season appears to be turning in the right direction, despite being ousted out of the Open Cup midweek by the Sacramento Republic. Their attack is led by Daniel Musovski, Lindo Mfeka, and Brian Brown – the latter scored against San Antonio in this fixture last season.
In net, most of the season has been USL rookie Jason Marcinkowski. He had five saves last week against Seattle in a match where S2 dominated the ball. He has 14 saves during Reno’s unbeaten run, which has included five straight starts for the MLS homegrown player tied to San Jose Earthquakes. You may have also seen him at several levels of the US Youth National Team.
For San Antonio, the conversation seems to remain largely around the offense. Despite a burst of goals against a lower side in Open Cup play two weeks ago, here in the USL, San Antonio has been shut out more times (four) than they have scored multiple goals (three). Leadman Guzman continues to ride the injury list and it seems like he might be there for an extended time. Luckily Elizondo has come back from his second stint on the list this season. He announced his presence last week as a second-half sub with a laser beam shot that went just wide of the net. While he didn’t score, seeing that kind of power in his shot was positive. The team needs production out of him soon. And that’s b/c Kyle Murphy, who appeared in the first Open Cup match, also found himself on the injury list last week. Even the reinforcements are going down hurt. It has been a tough ride at forward so far this season.
Bruce continues to lead the charge at the position but it’s probably unfair to dump the team’s fortunes squarely on the 19-year-old’s shoulders. He needs some help. And in the last few weeks, signs seem to indicate that Omar Gordon could be that guy. After not being selected for 4 straight matches, Gordon returned to the starting lineup and he has been heavily involved and has looked very positive in his play, culminating in the lone goal against Tulsa last weekend. That was his second goal for the team in USL play and his first since last September away to Swope. With his goal in the Open Cup against Midland-Odessa, that made two straight games with a goal for Gordon, who just like that is second on the team (Lopez) for total goals scored this season in all competitions. A welcome sign, and something to build on.
The other place that help has come from has been the defensive wing. Cochrane assisted on Gordon’s goal last week with a beautiful cross. And that follows Darnell King’s team-leading three assists. The four combined assists from those two players are more than the entire 12 player midfield (including Tyrpak) on the season, who have combined for three. Part of that can be attributed to the style of play but part of that also says, the Midfield group is not holding up their end of the bargain through nearly 1/3 of the 2018 season. If that doesn’t change soon, this team will likely continue to struggle to score all season long.
The other concerning bit about the midfield, at least for one week, was all the turnovers and bad giveaways. They plagued SAFC throughout the Tulsa match last week, and one of them led to the goal. Granted, the strike itself was an incredible one that Restrepo could do very little about, but with better decision making, they wouldn’t have been in that position, to begin with.
And a defensive shakeup in league play continues to be on the brink as Felix now joins King with 4 yellow cards. Each is one caution away from a one-match suspension and Powell needing to do a bit of tinkering on his back line.
All in all, it has been a similar story for most of the USL season and we don’t see much deviation coming this week. Reno has four draws in their last five games, San Antonio three. We think there’s another one coming this week. Call it even in Reno.
San Antonio FC – 1
Reno 1868 – 1
SAFC “Did You Know?”
SAFC Forward Cesar Elizondo recorded one of his two braces in an SAFC uniform against Reno 1868, on April 15, 2017, a 4-0 San Antonio victory.
TRIVIA ANSWER – Reno and Portland Timbers 2, both 4-0 wins in April 2017.