San Antonio FC’s record run marked years of commitment

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About two weeks before the start of training camp with championship aspirations for the 2022 season, San Antonio FC agreed to transfer Jose Gallegos to Sonderjyske from the Danish Superliga.

A product of Central Catholic and the SAFC Pro Academy, Gallegos was the club’s most talented and valuable player, chief executive Tim Holt says, but the SAFC accepted the move which left a gaping hole in the roster because “it was the right thing to do”. do.”

Having held his post at the SAFC since its inaugural season in 2016, Holt recalled one of the club’s founding commitments since Gallegos was still in his early teens – a goal to create a pathway to higher levels of the sport for young people. San Antonio players.

While the goal of fielding a championship-caliber club is always the goal, Holt said one of the keys to San Antonio’s success is a commitment not to take shortcuts, whether it’s when it comes to the progression of young talents or the search for pieces corresponding to the identity that coach Alen Marcina has since built. takes over in 2020.

San Antonio has finished in the Western Conference’s top four in the USL Championship each of the past three seasons, including a record in 2022 that propelled SAFC to the league seed in its opener against Oakland Roots SC. at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Terrain Toyota.

“It’s not a successful season out of nowhere,” Holt said. “It’s built as we’ve learned over seven years, and certainly over the past three years, as we’ve taken a step back and charted a slightly different path to approach this.”

Marcina has been pivotal in defining this path, saying he had a clear idea of ​​the club’s ‘north star’ when he took the reins in 2020.

An outline of Marcina’s vision is posted in each player’s locker, reminding them of the set of on-field values, off-field standards and style of play principles that define SAFC.

While goals such as competitiveness, a growth mindset and aggressiveness on the pitch are not unique, what makes the SAFC different, Marcina said, is the clarity with which the club defines and requires these traits.

Knowing that not every player can fit the SAFC identity, Marcina said he has built up a “huge database” over years of finding players who fit the mold, sometimes waiting several seasons for that contracts expire.

Marcina points out that one of SAFC’s stated goals is to “position ourselves to compete for championships” rather than just “winning a championship,” with an emphasis on process rather than outcome.

“There has to be a clear vision and a clear identity,” Marcina said. “Otherwise, I just don’t see anyone capable of achieving a sustainable level of success, and that’s what we’ve done here.”

San Antonio FC set USL Championship records for wins (24), road wins (13) and shutouts (17) this year despite using 33 different starting lineups in 34 games, as 24 players have missed a combined 117 games due to injury.

Sitting near the top of the league for most of the season, San Antonio continued to adjust the roster to solidify its position. Top scorer Samuel Adeniran arrived in June, former standout Cristian Parano was bought out in August and the club secured playoff depth with two more additions in September.

The San Antonio FC roster has the highest total market value on Transfermarkt, and the SAFC’s total value for arrivals for the 2021-22 cycle dwarfs the rest of the league, although these figures are only estimates of the perceived value of each player.

Holt said SAFC is focused on “spending within our means” based on the club’s revenue generation, and Marcina said San Antonio allocates funds during the preseason to meet roster needs throughout. of the year, bringing in players on loan through his personal contacts.

Working as an assistant coach with SAFC since his first season, Juan Lamadrid said the support of the San Antonio Spurs organization gave the club instant prestige and identity.

Spurs Sports & Entertainment’s infrastructure impacts all levels of SAFC, Holt said, from human resources, to business partnerships, to medical care for athletes, to his own relationship with CEO RC Buford. and general manager Brian Wright for perspective on building a winning club. .

San Antonio FC have also continued to develop their own infrastructure, with Lamadrid running a development academy that has bolstered the depth of the first team this season, with around half a dozen players dotting the roster.

As with the development of SAFC for years, Holt said the club made no compromises with the players, striving to provide desirable living conditions and a training ground that is “as good as you will ever find”. anywhere in the country”.

Third-year prop Connor Maloney said he was drawn to the SAFC by Marcina’s vision and found San Antonio offered everything a player could need to thrive.

“It’s different here,” Maloney said. “I don’t think anyone will know until they get into the environment, but it’s just a different organization, and everyone plays a role. That’s why we’ve been so successful this year.


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Twitter: @GregLuca

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