Image: Steve Aibel, Pitch Black News/Little Orca Sports
San Antonio FC defeated Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 by a scoreline of 2-0 on Saturday night in the first ever meeting between the two clubs. SAFC is now unbeaten in six games, having earned 14 of a possible 18 points during that stretch.
The match was the first of a three-game suspension for Josh Ford after the SAFC goalkeeper and captain was sent off against Oklahoma City Energy FC in the previous game on July 9. Upon further review, the United Soccer League gave Ford a four-game suspension, though it was reduced to three on appeal from SAFC. That gave Matt Cardone his second start and third appearance this season for SAFC. Rafa Castillo also inherited the captain’s armband.
“It was a great win and it’s really great to be part of such a good team effort,” Cardone said. “We’re only getting better with a lot of the season left to go.”
The offside flag thwarted SAFC multiple times in the early minutes. Both sides exchanged attacks as the match wore on, with SAFC having the better of them and testing Vancouver’s defense more often.
SAFC nearly went down a goal in the 19th minute as Vancouver won a questionable penalty courtesy of some light physicality in the box from Miguel Salazar. However, the penalty from Kyle Greig was read well and saved impressively as Matt Cardone dove down to his right to tip it away.
After that incident, SAFC continued to attack often. Their offense couldn’t quite finish off on attack though as a number of shots were off target or saved by Vancouver goalkeeper Spencer Richey. When Vancouver did attack, their play seemed to break down when they came too close to Cardone’s goal, largely thanks to the defensive display in front of him.
SAFC increased the pressure in the second half as they sought to steal points from the team who was first place in the western conference coming into the night.
Cesar Elizondo made his SAFC debut in the 55th minute, coming on for Taylor Morgan. Elizondo played in San Antonio previously with the Scorpions in 2014 and 2015 and was part of the team that won San Antonio the North American Soccer League championship in 2014.
“I’m so glad to be back and all the guys have welcomed me well,” Elizondo said.
Elizondo’s introduction provided an instant spark for the home side as he wove his way into the Vancouver 18-yard box and appeared to have been tripped, but the referee saw nothing wrong and let the game continue. Hardly a minute later, he found himself on the end of a Carlos Alvarez cross which he headed into the ground toward the goal, but Vancouver’s goalkeeper made a kick-save to deny the Costa Rican a quick debut goal.
SAFC’s plea for a penalty kick didn’t fall on deaf ears a second time. In the 63rd minute, Elizondo finally helped SAFC onto the scoresheet as he was tripped in the box after following up on a blocked shot by Michael Reed. Castillo comfortably dispatched the spot-kick, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way and giving SAFC the 1-0 lead.
The game then opened up as Vancouver sought to draw level. As it did though, SAFC found even more chances and looked to double their lead and get an insurance goal. SAFC later played less aggressively, looking to see out the result safely. Vancouver provided a few late scares, but no chance was too close to being lethal.
SAFC sealed the victory with an insurance goal in stoppage time. After Greg Cochrane booted the ball upfield to play it safe and waste time, Franck Tayou latched onto the lob and slotted past the goalkeeper, netting his third goal in four games. The goal allowed SAFC to breath and the 2-0 scoreline went final not long after the restart.
“We hope everyone goes home with a smile on their face and enjoys their day tomorrow,” said SAFC head coach Darren Powell. “We get ready for the team in first place again next week.”
SAFC will play the third and final game of their recent home stand next Saturday against Los Angeles Galaxy II. They will look to continue their run of good form and close out what has been a positive stretch played largely within the comfortable confines of Toyota Field.
Final SAFC 2-0 Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2
SAFC Starting XI (4-1-4-1): Matt Cardone; Milton Palacios, Stephen McCarthy, Biko Bradnock-Brennan, Greg Cochrane; Rafa Castillo (c) (Danny Garcia 90’), Michael Reed, Carlos Alvarez (Franck Tayou 72’), Miguel Salazar (Sebastien Thuriere 23’), Jason Johnson; Taylor Morgan (Cesar Elizondo 54’)
Substitutes not used: Johnston, Okiomah, McBride
SAFC Discipline: Yellow cards – Miguel Salazar (2nd this season), Carlos Alvarez (2nd this season), Sebastien Thuriere (3rd this season)
SAFC Official Man of the Match: Matt Cardone