San Antonio FC's Santiago Patiño scored five goals in three games this postseason, including a brace against Louisville City FC in Sunday night's 2022 USL Championship Final. | Photo courtesy Darren Abate / San Antonio FC
SAN ANTONIO – From the smile broadly plastered across Santiago Patiño’s face, you could tell immediately how much the moment meant.
Delivering a pair of goals in a final to help your club earn its first title and you your first professional silverware will do that to a person.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Patiño, who took MVP honors in the 2022 USL Championship Final on Sunday night after leading San Antonio FC to victory at Toyota Field. “This club, the coaching staff, the organization, from day one, they had preached a mentality and attitude and mindset, and we all bought in. We all believed we all had the opportunity to be able to be here and we fight to the end, and we were able to win tonight. It’s an amazing feeling.”
It’s been an amazing postseason for Patiño in general. His second two-goal performance in three playoff games paved the way to a 3-1 victory against Louisville City FC before a sellout crowd of 8,534 fans – an all-time high for the club – and moved the Colombian to five goals this postseason, one shy of the single-playoff record set by the New York Red Bulls II forward Brandon Allen with six in the 2016 USL Championship Playoffs.
What’s all the more remarkable is how the 25-year-old has delivered after repeated bouts with injury over his two seasons with San Antonio. Most recently, Patiño missed a month of action in September with what the club termed a lower body injury, returning to get 45 minutes in its regular season finale against Orange County SC.
If at that point you hadn’t expected much from Patiño in the playoffs – what with him having seen little action and only scored one goal since July in the regular season – you could have been forgiven. But, like some others in the Championship’s history, the playoffs have been when Patiño has come alive. Now with eight goals in six USL Championship Playoffs games in his career, he’s quickly established himself as a player that can deliver when the chips are down.
“We say big players show up in big moments, and Santi is a big-time player,” said SAFC Head Coach Alen Marcina. “He’s been resilient. Again, when we preach about being mentality monsters, that’s being cohesive, ultra-competitive and resilient, confident through facing challenges and adversity, and he's been through a lot of adversity, a lot of challenges. He stayed the course, and everything he got recognized tonight, he’s earned.”
Patiño is quick to pay tribute to Marcina, who he believes has helped change his mind-set for the better.
“Alen Marcina, he believed in me when nobody did,” said Patiño. “He gave me an opportunity. He changed my mindset, and he gave me so much confidence. And I started seeing life different, my career different, and I’m so blessed that he was put in my life.”
Now sitting on 19 goals in 34 appearances for San Antonio in the Championship across the regular season and playoffs – with a strike rate of 111.1 minutes per goal to go with it – the Colombian richly deserved his place in the postseason spotlight once again.
“I just kept believing,” said Patiño. “I kept fighting. I kept coming back with the same energy that I started this journey in San Antonio with, and you know, I’m so grateful and blessed to be able to be healthy this playoff to give my all and help the team.”