It’s a Monday. The grass is green and freshly cut as the San Antonio FC squad takes the field for the first time in preparation of the 2020 season. Training camp has officially begun, and the first day of ‘school’ has arrived once again for the SAFC roster. A squad that boasts more newcomers than returnees has come together over the last few days to begin building what they hope will be a winning team on and off the field.
It started with orientation at the AT&T Center on Friday, followed by a team trip to the Spurs game that evening where the roster was recognized on the court by the organization and applauded by the fans. Physicals and screenings happened over the weekend, and the fun stuff began first thing this week when the boots were laced up and the players hit the pitch. Season five for SAFC is officially underway.
“We are very excited as a staff to be on the field,” said SAFC Head Coach Alen Marcina. “As a collective we are excited to be out here and get this process going.”
“It’s a great feeling being back out here.,” said SAFC midfielder Cristian Parano. “We have a very new group but its exciting. We have a lot to work on, but overall it feels great and we are excited about what’s to come.”
Parano specifically is looking to progress this season after an impressive 2019 campaign where he was named the USL Championship Young Player of the Year after scoring seven goals and recording six assists in 32 games. The Argentinian looks to play an important role on the squad in 2020 but knows that the SAFC roster overall will have a massive part to play in the club’s success.
“I do feel like an important piece on this roster, but I think everybody is going to play an important role,” said Parano. “The biggest thing for us to improve collectively and keep improving as people as well which is very important.”
For new defender Connor Maloney, he knew what he wanted out of his next club. The 24-year-old has spent his entire career so far with the Columbus Crew of MLS, and he had high standards for what his next destination in soccer was.
After speaking with Marcina about the possibility of joining SAFC for 2020, Maloney quickly realized his values align with the club’s and he may have found a new home in the Alamo City. Thankfully, that’s exactly what came to fruition.
“Before I even decided to come here, we talked about accountability and that this is a family,” said Maloney. “I’m a family-oriented person, and I think we’ve taken that and already and given our locker room a family feel.
“I think it says a lot about our club, the type of people we have in the locker room.”
After the first couple of sessions, the squad is beginning to condition themselves into playing form as week one of five commences. Everyone recognizes that the first week is all about coming together and getting to know each other, as well as shaking the few months of offseason cobwebs off of their proverbial legs.
Despite it being just the beginning, both players and staff are excited with how the first few days of training camo have gone.
“We’ve done a few different activities, including a culture activity,” said Marcina. “Initially it’s about building relationships. We stress and preach that we are a family here, and if we can build those family relationships it will show on the field.”
“I thought it was a great session today, I thought guys had the right mentality,” Maloney said on day one. “Everyone was held accountable especially to themselves. That’s going to go a long way throughout our season in the locker room.”
As the preseason progresses into preseason matches and then into the regular season, the squad knows the competition and stress will intensify. But with that said, each member sees the importance of staying together through thick and then. And at the end of the day, its soccer. Parano says it best:
“At the end of the day this is our sport and we are here to enjoy it.”