San Antonio FC Head Coach Alen Marcina said there was 'zero frustration' for his side after it was held to a 1-1 draw by Las Vegas Lights FC on Saturday night. | Photo courtesy Darren Abate / San Antonio FC
If you looked at the body language of San Antonio FC Head Coach Alen Marcina on the sideline late on in his side’s clash, it cut the figure of someone understandably a little bit frustrated.
As his side was unable to find a late breakthrough and played out a 1-1 draw with Las Vegas Lights FC before a packed Toyota Field, the club’s fourth consecutive league game without a win, Marcina stood with hands on hips in stoppage time as the seconds ebbed away.
According to the man himself, though, that definitely wasn’t the case.
“Zero frustration,” said Marcina. “Challenges – we embrace challenges, we find solutions. And we will find solutions. I’m very optimistic with the group we have. And … it’s just a matter of time before that final action goes into the back of the net. Again, every opponent we out-shoot them, and we did more than enough to win the game.
“So frustrated, 100 percent no, that would be inaccurate to say or read on myself, or on my players. We’re very optimistic. We’re a very good team, and again, it’s a marathon, right?”
What does Marcina need to find a solution for? It’s now starting to seem there’s a blueprint for how to play his side. As Louisville City FC Head Coach Danny Cruz said after it took victory two weeks ago, “They’re a team that doesn’t want the ball. So, we gave them the ball.”
In each of San Antonio’s past three games, it’s had more possession than its opponent – and it seems purposeful on the part of their opponents. Phoenix Rising FC went from completing its fewest passes (165) in a game this season in a 1-1 draw against San Antonio while holding 43.3 percent possession on April 22 to completing the most passes it has this season on Saturday night (552) in a 3-1 win against Loudoun United FC.
Either side of that, LouCity completed its second-fewest passes in a game this season (186) while holding 49 percent of possession in a 1-0 win at Lynn Family Stadium, and Lights FC completed only 144 passes, its third-lowest number this season, in earning a draw as Las Vegas has aimed to adopt a similarly direct style under new Head Coach Isidro Sanchez.
It’s food for thought, even if San Antonio is still finding ways to get into the spaces it wants to occupy during games.
“We did some good things tonight, it’s still a tie, so we’ve got to move on,” said SAFC’s Connor Maloney. “Learn from some things tonight and take away some of the good things that we did tonight. It’s another learning opportunity for us, and we grew again in this game. We did a lot of good things, and we’ll apply them for the next game against Vegas.”
A four-game winless streak is by no means a serious blow to San Antonio’s overall aspirations. The same thing happened in 2021, when it was a penalty shootout away from reaching the USL Championship Final. It’s still in fifth place in the Western Conference, and among the favorites to lift the title according to fivethirtyeight.com.
As much success as SAFC has had, you’re also not going to diminish the togetherness or work-rate the side will try to deliver in every game either with a small dip in overall form.
“We’re all together as one in that locker room,” said Maloney. “We fight for each other each and every day … we’re doing the best for each other and going out there and fighting for one another and that’s all you can ask for. The guys in the locker room, we know who we are. We know the quality that we have, and we know that each and every one of us is going to work hard for one another.”
It could be, though, that a few tweaks might be needed for the side to get back to the top of the Western Conference.