San Antonio FC announces first members of 2019 roster

All images: Darren Abate, San Antonio FC / United Soccer League

While the collective eyes of San Antonio soccer fans might be focused on Europe or other parts of the Americas, preparation for San Antonio FC’s 2019 USL Championship season is well underway.

Ahead of the club’s fourth season all-time, SAFC has announced five players for the 2019 senior team roster. It’s far too early to make any conclusions about the developing squad as a whole, but so far things look familiar with all five players calling Toyota Field home once before.

San Antonio FC 2019 Roster

Last updated: 03 December 2018

Pecka – Central Midfielder / Central Defending Midfielder

With three seasons in the books, it’s clear that the defensive midfield is among the most important positions in Darren Powell’s SAFC tactics. Pecka has been arguably the best in the 6 role, racking up an 86.3 percent passing accuracy total and 47 tackles in his 22 USL matches in 2018.

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Since the league started tracking the stat at the beginning of 2017, Pecka’s 117 tackles place him at the top of SAFC’s tackle count. Pecka has a 76.2 percent success rate when going for a tackle in USL play. The 29 year old Brazilian has also earned 79.6 percent passing accuracy in the opposing half during his time with SAFC.

Pecka expressed his enthusiasm for returning via a club release, “I’m thrilled to stay in San Antonio…I feel that we have unfinished business and we have a lot of goals to reach together.” He also added praise for the city and fans, finishing with, “I love this city and club, my heart is here and I’m ready to get back to work.”

Pecka’s one goal on five total shots over the last two seasons might not make him the most exciting signing to some, but the CDM has been the engine powering the ship many times through the last three seasons. Pecka’s return should mean good things for both distribution and defense in 2019.

Matthew Cardone – Goalkeeper

San Antonio’s own version of #FearTheBeard is back for another round, making him one of only two players (announced so far) to be with the club since its inaugural season.

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Cardone had solid showings in 2016 and early 2017 before succumbing to a lower body injury that would see him lose the starting role for the rest of the season. Cardone began the 2018 season as the backup, but took over between the pipes in August when Diego Restrepo fell to a season-ending lower body injury.

The San Antonio native was in as keeper when SAFC recorded its lone shutout in 2018 USL play, a 1-0 win at Colorado Springs on July 25. That the traditionally defensive-minded club only recorded one shutout in 2018 USL play shows there were bigger problems executing on that side of the match than just the keeper.

Head Coach Darren Powell has always maintained that every position is an open competition for minutes, but barring a “big” signing it would be a surprise to see anyone but Cardone get the nod to start 2019.

Lance Laing – Attacking Midfielder / Winger

Lance Laing finished 2018 as the club’s assist leader (6), second highest goal scorer (5), and tied a record for most matches with a goal and assist in a season (5).

He did all of that in 10 appearances.

In less than a third of the total 2018 season, Laing proved himself to be in the discussion of SAFC’s most valuable players. The outside midfielder joined the Alamo City on loan from FC Cincinnati in August of 2018, and with his immediate impact and visible admiration for the club and fans it is no surprise he signed a new contract with SAFC.

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“I’m very happy to be back in the black and red kit for the 2019 season,” Laing said via club press release. “I would like to thank everyone who has made this move possible. In the  end, it was an easy decision to stay in San Antonio and continue to work with the great people within this club. My family loves it here and I can’t wait for the season to start.”

Walter Restrepo – Attacking Midfielder / Winger

Returning to San Antonio is Walter Restrepo, member of the 2014 NASL Champion San Antonio Scorpions. Toyota Field will be familiar to the winger, but the quarry has changed tenants since he last called SA home.

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After leaving San Antonio, Restrepo spent time with MLS club Philadelphia Union, USL clubs Bethleham Steel and Tampa Bay Rowdies, NASL clubs New York Cosmos and Ft. Lauderdale Strikers, and Colombia’s Deportes Tolima.

The 30 year old winger should be a dangerous pairing opposite of Lance Laing. Fans hopes will likely be that reuniting with former Scorpions head coach Alen Marcina (now an assistant coach with SAFC), former Scorpions midfielder Rafa Castillo, and potentially other former teammates will produce results similar to 2014’s NASL season.

Rafa Castillo – Central Midfielder

The only problem with erecting a statue to honor what Rafa Castillo has done for soccer in San Antonio is that he would have to actually retire first.

USL Orange County FC vs San Antonio FC
Orange County FC plays San Antonio FC during the second half of a USL soccer match, Saturday, April 14, 2018, at Toyota Field in San Antonio, Texas. Orange County won 3-0. (Darren Abate/USL)

Rafa was announced before San Antonio FC even released their club branding, and has played for San Antonio FC each season since. He missed significant time in 2018 to injury, but anyone writing off the 38-year-old as a depth signing is likely mistaken.

“We’re pleased to have Rafa back for the 2019 season,” SAFC Head Coach Darren Powell said via club release. “His professionalism, leadership, and his abilities on the field are clear for all to see, and we expect him to have a prominent role within the group throughout the course of the campaign.”

A quote from a press release shouldn’t be blown out of context, but it doesn’t come off as a coach expecting his player to be a mascot. If he is able to stay fit, Rafa will likely make contributions to most matches.

Ever Guzman – Forward

San Antonio FC is bringing back the club’s all-time leading scorer (16) when Ever Guzman returns for the 2019 season.

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Guzman joined the club in August 2017, and had an immediate impact with 5 goals in 11 appearances to close the year. The following season, the striker banked 11 goals in 27 USL appearances with the Alamo City along with 3 assists.

The 30-year-old striker showed no signs of slowing down in 2018, and the support of Laing and Restrepo on the wings should provide him plenty of freedom in the center of the attacking third.

The stats speak for themselves, but Head Coach Darren Powell also cites Guzman’s consistency, effort, and commitment to the team as factors leading to him being “one of the best strikers in the league.”

And honestly you cant talk about Guzman without watching this gif about a hundred times.

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Confirmed Departures

Greg Cochrane – Retirement

Stephen McCarthy – Retirement

Mikey Lopez – Free transfer to Birmingham Legion FC

Sonny Guadarrama – Free transfer to Austin Bold FC

Charlie Ward – Announced departure on social media

Cesar Elizondo – Free transfer to A.D. Municipal de Pérez Zeledón

Darnell King – Free transfer to Nashville SC

Ryan Felix – Free transfer to Tampa Bay Rowdies

Cyprian Hedrick – Announced departure on social media

Not Expected to Return

Diego Restrepo

The former USL Goal Keeper of the Year had a blow up on social media with an SAFC fan and didn’t play again for the rest of the 2018 season due to a lower body injury. It would be a surprise to see him back.

Omar Gordon

An article from The Star (Jamaica) reports that Gordon, who was on loan to SAFC from Montego Bay United, is seeking to move to MLS or Europe. *Note: The outlet’s website is listed as “not secure,” so no link will be provided.

2018 San Antonio FC Roster

Goalkeepers

Diego Restrepo

Matthew Cardone – announced returning

Armando Quezada

Defenders

Darnell King – Free transfer to Nashville SC

Ryan Felix – Free transfer to Tampa Bay Rowdies

Cyprian Hedrick – Announced departure on social media

Gianluca Cuomo

Greg Cochrane – retired

Stephen McCarthy – retired

Moises Hernandez – loan from FC Dallas completed

Midfielders

Mikey Lopez – free transfer to Birmingham Legion FC

Rafa Castillo – announced returning

Ethan Bryant

Connor Presley

Maxi Rodriguez

Jose Escalante

Pecka – announced returning

Sonny Guadarrama – free transfer to Austin Bold FC

Omar Gordon

Ryan Roushandel

Charlie Ward – Announced departure on social media

Lance Laing – announced returning

Forwards

Cesar Elizondo – Free transfer to A.D. Municipal Pérez Zeledón

Mike Seth

Alex Bruce

Ever Guzman – announced returning

Kyle Murphy

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