After ending their last match in a draw, New Mexico United will head on the road to face San Antonio FC on Saturday.
By Chris Walker | Photo: Adam Nish
New Mexico United and San Antonio FC will be closing out their regular season match series on Saturday evening at Toyota Field in San Antonio, Texas. I spoke to Harry Ramincol, who is a co-host for S.A. Soccer Round Table and contributes to SASOCCER.org discussing San Antonio.
SSC: It’s being said that Toyota Field is a hard place to go into to get a win. San Antonio is 6-2-5 at home. Can you give insight as to why clubs are struggling to get wins there?
Harry Ramincol: I think the first thing is the atmosphere, at Toyota Field the fans are right on you and close to the action. And when its 3/4 full and the crowd is going it can be a very tough place. I am not sure that will hurt NMU since they are used to playing in front of large and loud crowds. However, it is different with the fans on top of you. Second is the heat others in the West are just not used to the South Texas heat, and while NMU is used to hot, however the humidity (even though it’s not bad) is much different than a dry heat.
SSC: When SAFC and NM United first met, SAFC was spiraling into bad form after a series of road matches. Now, SAFC is getting into a good form at home. What, if anything, did the technical staff attribute the early setbacks? Can you talk about the contributing factors to the club’s success as of late?
HR: This one is a tough one, since the talent has been there, but for some reason it just did not work. I know that Pecka (# 8 and our Captain) missed 9 games and is such a huge difference when he is controlling the midfield. Since his return the team has been much better. I also think the time and pressure of the season has made a huge difference. Let’s be honest when you drop as many points as San Antonio did at the start of the season, you have to go in playoff mode. And I know the fans were pushing for Coach Darren Powell to be replaced, and as a fan I wonder how close it really was to happening. However, Coach Powell, has turned the ship around (not counting last week’s disaster to RGV) and I think many expect San Antonio to make the playoffs.
SSC: What has the addition of Frank Lopez meant to the club since his big match against El Paso where he bagged a brace? Has he lived up to the hype?
HR: Well I am going to direct you to this great article on our website. https://sasoccer.org/2019/08/stats-stuff-frank-the-bank/ by Chris Hockman. Has he lived up to the hype, I don’t think there is any other answer than “yes!” Frank brings just a different element to SAFC and that is speed at the top that can pressure the defense in more than one way.
SSC: Who are the players to watch? Is anyone getting hot? Who has cooled off? Why?
HR: Frank Lopez is the obvious choice on who to watch as we have discussed earlier. The two others that I think are to watch is Moses Hernandez and Christian Parano. Moses is coming back from injury he is IMO the missing piece in the back line that has speed and is the size we need on the left side. Especially against New Mexico that puts so much pressure on teams, having players on defense that can dribble and push the ball back up the field with speed will help avoid all the pressure from New Mexico. Parano, is a special player was player of the week two weeks ago for USL Championship. Has scored 3 goals the last two weeks. To me is like our Santi Moar, where if the offense is going well, he typically is involved. The guy that has cooled off. I would say is Billy Forbes. He is a fan favorite and came back from Phx Rising. But has just not had the season we expected and his role seems to be fading, however he is the type of player that if that switch turns back on. He is one of the best from the wings.
SSC: Where is the club’s biggest weakness from their last few matches? Where can New Mexico capitalize in your opinion?
HR: The weakness as it has been all season is two things. If teams pack the box, SAFC for whatever reason doesn’t shoot from outside the box. The second if teams press them and they turn the ball over, the defense has been a weakness. SAFC defense while not bad, tends to leak goals (sounds like New Mexico.) How I think New Mexico beats San Antonio is how they beat them the last time and that is with the world class players they have that are special on the offensive side of the ball.
SSC: If you’re a visiting fan, what is good to eat at the concession line? Best way to cool off at Toyota Field?
HR: The only place in Toyota Field that I think is different than the normal concessions. There is a BBQ place behind 118 called Augies Barb Wire BBQ which is pretty good. But not sure I would say Toyota Field has anything special. That I would say an away fan would need. Not sure there is a way to cool off at Toyota Field. However, typically when the game starts the sun goes down and if there is a breeze it’s pretty cool. But its Texas so it’s warm.
SSC: What are your match day traditions, whether superstitious or not? Are there any club traditions during match play?
HR: My Match day traditions are I generally stop at a park and play soccer with my son and daughter if she comes. I try to hit up the tailgates, Mission City Firm 118 and Crocketteers both do a great job. To me that is the place to fill up before the match. Both are very cool with away supporters, however expect to hear some banter.