SAN ANTONIO – Life in professional soccer is often transient. Players jump between teams, cities, countries, continents and leagues at a moment’s notice either by choice or by decisions from management. Maintaining any kind of roster continuity over an extended period of time is highly unlikely.
That’s what makes goalkeeper Matt Cardone’s consistent presence on San Antonio FC’s roster so remarkable. The San Antonio native has left his footprints all across the Alamo City, whether at MacArthur High School, the Classics Elite Soccer Academy or Trinity University, and he is the only remaining member of SAFC’s first squad in 2016. The fans know him well. A banner hangs from Toyota Field with his ubiquitous beard on full display, bolstered by the phrase “One of our own.”
On Wednesday night, Cardone will add another chapter to his growing legacy. San Antonio FC’s match against Real Monarchs SLC at Toyota Field will mark Cardone’s 100th career appearance for his hometown club, the second player in franchise history to reach that milestone. He trails only defender Greg Cochrane, who recorded 102 all-time appearances over the course of three seasons with SAFC from 2016 to 2018.
“For the most part, I’m just grateful that the club has given me the opportunity to be part of the team for years,” Cardone said. “Since the beginning, they’ve stood by me through injuries, through rough patches, and I hope I’ve returned the favor up to now.”
Over the past five seasons, Cardone has had dozens of different teammates, including fellow goalkeepers, who brought a plethora of skills and experiences to the table. That exposure has proven invaluable to his development from Division III to the professional ranks.
“That’s been really important,” Cardone explained. “They have different experiences, different approaches, and I’ve taken things from every singe one of them and put them all together along with my abilities, my strengths that I bring to the table to get to those 100 appearances. It’s the help you get from others that gets you there.”
TONIGHT AT 6: @SanAntonioFC goalkeeper @mattcardone is on the verge of club history - he'll become the second player to appear in 100 matches with SAFC on Wednesday night! Hear from the San Antonio native himself on the accomplishment #KSATsports @USLChampionship @InstantReplaySA pic.twitter.com/szwWFzmutl— Andrew Cely (@ACelySports) August 31, 2021
Of course, Cardone now finds himself in a changing role. He’s currently one of the older players on a roster constructed partially of young, up-and-coming talent from around the Alamo City. Jose Gallegos, Leo Torres and Ollie Wright are just a few of the current players with ties to high schools, universities and developmental programs in San Antonio. Cardone was just like them, and he is happy to be a part of their progression up the ranks.
“It’s really exciting for me and for the younger players to come through,” Cardone said. “They know it’s a great organization, and it’s full of great people. They’re going to use it as a platform for whatever is next for them. From the perspective of a slightly older player, they know to take advantage of all the opportunities that they have in this club.”
This month, Cardone is on pace to surpass Cochrane as the club’s all-time leader in appearances. He’s already established himself at the USL Championship level and keeps striving for personal improvement on and off the field. That includes his beard, which he has not trimmed since the offseason. Regardless of what the future holds and where he might be playing next, Cardone is thrilled to have accomplished so much in front of his hometown fans.
“It’s great for fans to have continuity, to have players they associate with, especially ones that have been here when there’s been more fan interaction allowed. It’s good to see players stay and build a relationship with them.”