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Remember the Alamo—and the Austin FC 'Cupset': San Antonio FC's win showcased the strength of Central Texas soccer

San Antonio fans Doc LaPlaca and Jordan Cole formed an Alamo-esque last stand among the Austin FC crowd Wednesday night. (Claire Partain/Austonia)

When Doc "The Yankee" LaPlaca returned to his front-row throne at San Antonio FC's Toyota Stadium after fifteen matches abroad, he wasn't surrounded by his usual black and silver comrades.


Instead, LaPlaca was one of two San Antonian specks in a Verde horde as hundreds of Austin FC fans traveled to the club's closest road match to date.

"When they tried to take (our seats) away, I said no," LaPlaca said. "This is our Alamo."

After fighting for their seats alone in the first half LaPlaca and fellow SAFC fan Jordan Cole joined ranks to form a small, but steadfast last stand among the Verdinegro crowd as they celebrated the win. Meanwhile, the home team brought out that same historic San Antonio grit as they pulled off a memorable 2-1 upset against their I-35 neighbors to advance to the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday.

But the match was more than a classic underdog tale.

The third-round tournament bout, which pitted top-flight professional team Austin FC against second-tier USL side San Antonio, is arguably the biggest soccer battle the two cities have ever seen.



And although many of the 8,000 fans in attendance, including San Antonio's mayor Ron Nirenberg, were divided to the bitter end, the two opposing sides are united in promoting one message: Central Texas soccer culture is alive and well in both Hill Country cities.



In three short years, Austin FC thrust Austin and the entire Central Texas region into the international soccer spotlight, a feat which can often be attributed more to those in the stands than performances on the pitch. With 20,500 consistent fans, the club's Q2 Stadium has held the longest sold-out streak in the league for several weeks straight, and even Austin's road matches typically feature match-long chanting from hundreds of dedicated supporters.

But the pure passion of those fans didn't come from nowhere, and many will say that Austin was a "soccer city" long before its first major league franchise.

Both cities have been home to rival teams in the past, including the since-relocated USL side Austin Bold FC, which competed regularly against SAFC. And both Austin and San Antonio have played host to a long lineup of professional matches, including Mexico's Liga MX teams, Concacaf Gold Cup matches and appearances from both the U.S. men's and women's national teams.

And before Austin FC had its Oaky crest and "Keep Austin Weird" quirks, it was very nearly given to San Antonio's Toyota Stadium. The I-35 neighbors became rivals for more than just cuisine when MLS awarded Austin its franchise in 2017, snubbing San Antonio and its $21 million stadium deal in the process.

That lingering tension continued into the midweek match, as evidenced by the back-and-forth insults shouted by each team's most raucous supporters throughout the game.

Even after the red smoke cleared, however, Austin FC fans stayed to clean up the match. Brother supported brother, as was the case with Austin Anthem president Tony Cardone and his little brother Matt, who's a goalkeeper for San Antonio FC.



It may take a while for the sting to wear off, but Austin FC fans were reminded of Central Texas' growing presence in the professional soccer sphere as the match came to a close.

"The quality is good, the competition is good, the fans and their understanding of the game is good," Austin FC head coach Josh Wolff said after the match. "This is another example of a nice, small, tight, energetic stadium. And it was pushed in the other direction tonight... (but) it's a real positive for soccer in general."

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