Boomerang Billy Forbes can’t stay away from SA

Billy Forbes is back where he belongs: starring for San Antonio FC.

On May 10, 2014, a North American Soccer League match between San Antonio Scorpions FC and the visiting Carolina Railhawks was scoreless at halftime when a 23-year-old midfielder was substituted on for the second half at Toyota Field.

After another 45 minutes of soccer, the match ended 3-0 thanks in large part to the halftime sub, Billy Forbes. He didn’t notch a goal that night, but he did assist two and drew a penalty kick for the third, starting the San Antonio segment of his career on a positive note.

Now, just under five years later, Forbes will begin his fourth season in San Antonio, spread out over three stints with two different teams. Since he made his debut on that May 2014 day, the city has played a pivotal role in his career and life.

“San Antonio has been home for a long time, so it feels great to come back and play for the fans who have supported me for my whole career,” Forbes said of his re-signing in January.

Forbes’ first year in San Antonio went well as he notched a league-leading seven assists and added five goals, including the match-winner in the 2014 NASL Soccer Bowl. He scored just as many goals and even upped his assist tally to eight in 2015 despite the Scorpions finishing only above Jacksonville Armada in the table. Forbes signed on for a third season which never happened as the Scorpions folded late in 2015.

He found himself in the comfortable confines of Toyota Field again just over a year later though, this time with San Antonio FC in the United Soccer League. In 2017, Forbes scored 10 goals and added nine assists, both single-season records for the club at that time, though the former has since been broken, as well as personal single-season records for him which still stand. He hit the ground running with six goals and three assists in the first seven matches, being named the USL Player of the Month for March/April, landed on the Team of the Week four times and was named to the USL All-League Second Team.

After another season away, Forbes has rekindled old connections, both inside and outside of the club, as he returned to SAFC for the 2019 USL Championship season, becoming the first player to come back to SAFC after an extended time away.

“Billy’s had a very successful time in San Antonio – probably his most productive seasons as an individual have been (here) – so he feels comfortable in this environment,” said SAFC Head Coach Darren Powell.

Whether it’s aggregate or average stats, Powell is right to suggest Forbes has shined in San Antonio.

Forbes’ affinity for the city isn’t just stat-based either. In his three previous seasons here, he’s developed personal connections with the fans, through thick and thin. He’s even gotten engaged on the pitch postgame.

“San Antonio is like family…even when I go far away, I’m always going to come back to San Antonio,” Forbes said. “I like being able to play in front of fans I know by name and share a lot of memories with.”

Powell said he is well-aware of the mutual feelings of family between Forbes and the fans, and that awareness exists throughout the club. Because of that, the communications staff haven’t announced his signings like they would any other player.

“We know what Billy means to the fanbase, and the more we can (highlight) his connections with the city and the fans, the better it is for us,” said Luis Leyva, SAFC’s communications coordinator. “He’s not shy about saying that San Antonio is his home, so we like to give off that vibe.”

In the year between Forbes’ stints with SAFC, he joined Phoenix Rising FC, who fell just short in the USL Cup final in 2018. Although his playing time in Phoenix’s high-octane offense was slightly lower compared to previous seasons, it was by no means a wasted year for him.

One of the first things Forbes mentioned when asked about his time in Phoenix was getting to train alongside Didier Drogba, one of the greatest strikers of the modern era. Forbes said he learned a lot from him as well as others particularly in training and will make use of that newfound wisdom going forward.

He’ll need to as well, because Powell has high hopes for the squad and him in particular this season and Forbes’ own ambitions are similarly lofty.

“Billy’s an extremely talented player, he’s exciting to watch, he’s one of those players that can change a game,” Powell said. “He seems extremely focused to do well and I think he’s setting his own personal goals to make sure he has an even better season than previously. Hopefully we can see better soccer from Billy than he’s ever produced in San Antonio.”

Coincidentally, SAFC’s 2019 season begins Saturday when they host Phoenix, a club some SAFC fans now see as a minor rival. They’ve taken some of SAFC’s attacking talent over the years, including Forbes, and handing SAFC their worst-ever league loss last season probably fanned the flames too.

Billy may be lining up against a few friends on that night, but he’ll also be surrounded by thousands of family members, looking to make even more memories with them in the year ahead.

All images: Darren Abate, San Antonio FC