As we enter the new year and the 2019 USL Championship season approaches, the San Antonio FC technical staff is hard at work putting together a roster that will aim to make a playoff run and compete for titles. So far, a mix of returning and new players have been announced-- ranging from fan-favorites to former foes who are now joining the good guys. Take a look at the SAFC roster as it stands:
The SAFC Pro Academy ETP alum returns to his hometown club after a solid rookie season. In 2018, Bryant scored one goal and recorded three assists in 10 USL appearances, and became the youngest goalscorer in club history on Sept. 9, 2018. Bryant has proven his potential time and again, from his sessions in the Elite Training Program through to his opportunities with the first team. As he enters his sophomore season as a pro, the sky is the limit for the Alamo City youngster.
The 28-year-old Mexican striker joins SAFC on loan from Liga MX side Atlas FC. Barraza has made over 70 appearances with Atlas and scored 50 goals in 208 appearances overall across stints in the first and second divisions. His most impressive season came in 2015-16 while on loan at Necaxa, where he scored 14 goals and helped lead the team to a league title and promotion to Liga MX.
Defender Joshua Yaro joins SAFC from the Philadelphia Union (MLS) and brings a mix of experience in the top flight of U.S. Soccer as well as familiarity with the USL Championship. The Ghana native recorded 41 appearances between the Union and the Bethlehem Steel overall, during which he tallied 3,204 minutes. Yaro was originally drafted in the first round (second overall) by the Union in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft.
Cardone will enter his fourth season with SAFC and will look to build on his accomplishments with the club after returning to a regular starting role in the second half of the 2018 season, during which he tallied 37 saves in 13 league matches. Despite missing out on most of the 2017 campaign due to a lower body injury, Cardone has shown many moments of brilliance and potential, including his 0.43 goals against average in his five matches played in 2017, as well as a league-high four penalty saves in 2016. Add to that two consecutive USL #FearTheBeard wins for the best beard in the league as icing on the cake.
An anchor in the midfield, Pecka returns for his third season with San Antonio FC. The Brazilian scored his first club goal in 2018 while amassing 47 tackles (third-most on the team) and 28 interceptions on the defensive end. He also completed an impressive 86.3 percent of his 924 passes in league play and created 15 chances in the attack.
Following the retirement of both Stephen McCarthy and Greg Cochrane, SAFC had big shoes to fill in its back line. Enter Amer Didic, a 6’4” center-back who has tallied over 6,800 minutes of USL play with Swope Park Rangers, leading the side to two USL Championship matches and earning USL All-League First Team honors in 2016. Over his three seasons with SPR, Didic took part in 27 shutouts while adding three goals. The 24-year-old also played four matches with MLS side Sporting KC in the U.S. Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League.
Unlocking defenses seems to be Jack Barmby’s thing. The attacking midfielder certainly did that during the 2018 season, where he created 37 chances and recorded three assists for Portland Timbers 2 while adding six goals of his own. In addition, the England native recorded 33 appearances and two goals for the Timbers first team, overall. Vision like Barmby’s with a poacher like Ever Guzman ahead of him could prove to be a lethal threat for SAFC opponents in 2019.
One of the SAFC originals, Castillo returns for his fourth season with San Antonio FC. Despite missing a large part of the 2018 season due to injury, the Colombian finished the campaign with two goals in USL play and one in the U.S. Open Cup, proving yet again his efficiency from the penalty spot. Overall, Castillo is the club’s second all-time leading scorer (11). Castillo’s leadership on and off the field will also play an important role as the 38-year-old enters his 23rd season as a professional.
San Antonio soccer fans may recognize the name. After winning the 2014 NASL Championship with the San Antonio Scorpions, Walter Restrepo returns to represent the Alamo City. Restrepo joins the SAFC ranks after spending the 2018 season in the Colombian first division. Known for his speed and skill on the dribble, the winger could prove to be an asset down the SAFC flank. Restrepo returns to the USL after spending the 2017 season with the Tampa Bay Rowdies, where he scored one goal in 13 appearances.
Forward Ever Guzman returns for his third season with SAFC as the club’s all-time leading scorer (15). Guzman impressed during the 2018 season, scoring 11 goals in the regular season and setting a new single-season scoring record for the club. A poacher through and through, Guzman’s spatial awareness and positioning make him a dangerous threat to any back line. With the likes of Laing, Restrepo, and Barmby there to feed him chances, the SAFC attack is in good hands.
A versatile defender, Kai Greene brings over 5,300 minutes of USL experience to San Antonio. The 25-year-old tallied 68 appearances in league play for South Texas rivals Rio Grande Valley FC. In 2018, Greene recorded 48 clearances, 41 interceptions, 54 tackles, and a 70 percent duels success rate, while the New Jersey native ranked second in the league in tackles won with 73 the year prior.
In the span of two years, Pascal Eboussi appeared 31 matches for Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, scoring two goals and recording 85 clearances, 44 interceptions, and 47 tackles in USL play while also appearing in four Open Cup matches for the club. Standing at an impressive 6’4”, the 20-year-old Cameroon native joins the SAFC defense after recording 49 clearances, 29 tackles, 25 interceptions, and winning over 52 percent of both his duels and aerial duels on the season.
After a quality rookie season during which he scored three goals in 13 appearances, forward Alex Bruce returns to San Antonio FC for his sophomore stint as a pro. Bruce scored a couple of key goals in 2018, most notably scoring the game-winner in stoppage time against Portland Timbers 2 at Toyota Field and a stunner against OKC Energy FC from distance that made the final of the 2018 USL Goal of the Year voting.
Few players make an impact the way Lance Laing did for SAFC in 2018. After arriving at the club on loan in August, Laing finished the season with five goals and a team-leading six assists, tying a club record along the way for most matches with both a goal and an assist (five), and achieving the feat in three consecutive matches from Aug. 29 through Sept. 8. With a full season ahead of him in the Alamo City, Laing will be one to watch in 2019.