SAN ANTONIO – An eleven-match unbeaten streak. Seven clean sheets. Multiple club records.
Over the course of their abridged, 16-game schedule, San Antonio FC cruised through the 2020 regular season and claimed Group D’s top seed en route to the franchise’s first berth in the USL Championship playoffs since 2017.
Unfortunately, the team’s magic carpet ride of a season came to an abrupt end on Saturday evening.
San Antonio’s offense never found the back of the net in a 1-0 extra-time loss to New Mexico United in the Western Conference Quarterfinals at Toyota Field. This marks the club’s only loss at home this season. Their record in postseason play drops to 1-2. All of their playoff games have been played at home.
“Our players are incredibly disappointed," head coach Alen Marcina said. "Hats off to New Mexico. They are a great team, we mentioned it all week. There’s a lot of similarities between the two sides. It’s two very good teams. I wouldn’t be surprised if New Mexico goes the distance. I told players and staff in the locker room that I was incredibly proud of each of them. They left it all out there, and they made 210 proud.”
With both teams still scoreless at the end of regulation, New Mexico’s Chris Wehan finally broke the ice and tallied the only goal of the match in the 101st minute of play. The midfielder collected a header inside the box and blasted a shot past goalkeeper Matt Cardone inside the near post to give his squad a lead they would not relinquish.
That score did not come without controversy. Wehan appeared to bat the ball down with his elbow as he drove towards the net. The referees did not call a handball and the goal stood. Television broadcast angles were inconclusive, but SAFC fans, coaches and players all voiced their displeasure during and after the game.
“It was a clear handball," said defender Joshua Yaro. "If you asked Chris he will tell you that it was a handball. He used his hand to touch the ball in front of him, so it’s a clear handball. I think the linesman and the referee should have seen that. We feel like we should have least gone to PK’s after a 0-0 finish.”
“I’m a firm believer in accountability," Marcina explained. "Myself and our players are all held accountable to certain standards. I believe the officiating needs to be better, that’s my personal opinion. It know it’s a tough job and my hats go off to all of them. I respect what they do, but it’s a tough one to swallow. It was a clear handball on their goal. People have to be held accountable.”
San Antonio finished their first year under Marcina with a 10-4-3 overall record.