GAME DAY: SAFC Hosts Phoenix Rising FC

San Antonio FC returns home after winning both road games and starting season with three victories.

San Antonio FC (KSAT 12 TV)

SAN ANTONIO – Three games, three wins.

Sounds simple but until this year San Antonio FC had never started the season by winning their first three games.

Keeping the winning streak alive isn’t exactly the main concern for SAFC as they host Phoenix Rising FC Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Toyota Field. Phoenix has never won a match on San Antonio’s home pitch.

“It’s always nice to start 3-0 but we take it game-by-game,” said head coach Alen Marcina Friday afternoon. “We’re not looking beyond Phoenix, or game 16 or game 23. Right now, all our focus is putting our best foot forward against a very, very good Phoenix team.”

San Antonio FC is coming off Sunday’s 2-1 road victory over Rio Grande Valley FC. Going into Saturday’s match, San Antonio has earned nine points and are ranked third in the Western Conference standings.

As it turns out, Sunday was also the last game for starting goalkeeper Cristian Bonilla. According to a statement released by SAFC on Thursday night, Bonilla made the sudden decision to retire this week. Bonilla started all three games for SAFC, making nine saves including a clean sheet in the season-opening victory.

The retirement announcement caught the team by surprise but Bonilla left a lot of positive impressions on the club.

“Cristian is a very patient and understanding guy and he worked hard, had a really amazing attitude,” said goalkeeper Jordan Farr. “I soaked in all the expertise from Bonilla and experience he had playing in Columbia and places I’ve never played at or visited.”

“We wish him nothing but the best and hope it’s nothing too serious gong on with him,” explained goalkeeper Matt Cardone on Bonilla’s sudden departure. “Grateful for his time here and I learned a lot in his brief time here.”

“Cristian was an amazing person, a great keeper, everyone witnessed that and he will be missed,” added Marcina. “But we have two starting caliber goalkeepers available. We’ve said that since day one and we believe that.”

Marcina would not elaborate who would be starting in place of Bonilla Saturday night.

Farr added, “Matt and I hold each other to a high standard but this is a chance for us to play and help the team in a bigger way and that is always something you want to invite.”

Part of the winning recipe for SAFC has been the “next-man up mentality” considering the club is dealing with a number of injuries and now one less player at goalkeeper. Defender Connor Maloney has played in three different positions in the team’s first three games. On Sunday, Maloney earned his first assist of the season while wearing the captain’s armband and playing central midfielder.

“As a player, you just want to be on the field wherever you can get,” said Maloney. “In those various positions we don’t have many guys right now. Guys have just stepped up and it says a lot about our character and our locker room as a whole. Everyone is prepared to be on that field at any given time and you can see that in these first three games. We’ve come together as one and know it’s a grind every single game.”

Saturday’s match will be the club’s first Viva Night theme of the year. You can purchase tickets at Toyota Field or by going to SAFC’s homepage.

You can watch more San Antonio FC coverage Sunday night on Instant Replay following the Nightbeat.

Daniel P. Villanueva has worked with KSAT 12 for over 18 years and is an award-winning producer. To submit story ideas, email dvillanueva@ksat.com


About the Author:

Daniel P. Villanueva has been with KSAT 12 since 2003 and is the producer of our weekly sports show, "Instant Replay." Villanueva is a graduate of St. Mary's University and is a TAPB and Lone Star Emmy award winner.