Cardiff City will get their tour of North America underway against San Antonio FC at Toyota Field on Sunday, July 14th – 1:30am kick-off (BST).
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City’s players have been in pre-season training since Wednesday, June 26th in preparation for the North America trip, OGC Nice friendly and the coming Championship campaign.
A Bluebirds XI defeated Taff’s Well 5-1 at Rhiw’r Ddar Stadium on Friday, July 5th and five members of the 21-man tour squad started: recent signings Joe Day and Curtis Nelson and U23 players Aaron Bolger, Ciaron Brown and James Waite.
Despite not playing, the remainder of the First Team squad appeared at the fixture from which proceeds were donated to Tŷ Hafan.
The spirit in the camp is high and excitement continues to build as the first of three tour fixtures swiftly approaches, with the players aiming to impress and increase match fitness.
San Antonio FC was founded on January 7th, 2016 and is the USL Championship affiliate of New York City FC, playing at Toyota Field which has a capacity of just over 8,000.
They compete in the USL Championship’s Western Conference, which is the second highest tier of football in the United States of America and Canada. Their season spans from March to October, before the USL Cup Playoffs begin and that decides the USL Championship’s overall winner.
SAFC would need to finish in the top eight of the Western Conference standings to qualify for the Playoffs this campaign, but currently sit 14th, six points behind eighth place OKC Energy FC with one game in hand and 16 remaining.
Cardiff City’s upcoming opponents last competed on Wednesday, July 3rd and opened their Independence Day celebrations early with a 3-0 USL Championship victory over rivals Austin Bold FC at Toyota Field.
Mexican forward Éver Guzmán is their current top scorer for the season with five goals from 16 appearances, Argentine winger Brian Gómez has crafted most assists to date with three from 13 appearances and San Antonio-born goalkeeper Matt Cardone has kept five clean sheets from 17 appearances.
In the hot seat
Darren Powell - who grew up in Nottingham, England - is San Antonio FC’s current and only ever Head Coach after joining the club at their formation.
The now 46-year-old graduated from UNC Greensboro in 1995 with a bachelor’s degree in leisure studies, before serving as Head Coach at Greensboro College for three seasons from 1998.
He then became Assistant Coach at UNC Greensboro and spent four campaigns there, prior to joining Elon University as Head Coach in 2004 and departing after nine seasons to join Orlando City SC as Pro Academy Director, where he stayed for two seasons.
Powell was given his first professional Head Coach role in January 2016 as he was appointed by the newly-formed San Antonio FC.
Speaking ahead of his side’s test against the Bluebirds, Powell said: “Whenever you play somebody from overseas, you’re representing the state of Texas and those games have a little bit of an edge to them in terms of pride and representing what your league stands for.
“Cardiff will be no different and obviously they were in the Premier League this past season and are a very well-respected club around the world.
“We want to see if we can impose what we want to do onto Cardiff in how we want to defend and attack.”