Image: Steve Aibel, LittleOrcaSports.com / Pitch Black News
San Antonio FC lost to Swope Park Rangers 2-1 Saturday night at Swope Soccer Village. It was the second match between the two sides and the first since April 9, a 1-1 draw in SAFC’s inaugural home match at Toyota Field.
Sam McBride and Danny Garcia grabbed their first starts for SAFC in the league since June 11 away to the Portland Timbers, though both also played four days later in the 4-0 US Open Cup loss to the Houston Dynamo. Max Gunderson also made his second league appearance for SAFC, both of which were off the bench.
Swope Park grabbed control of the game’s rhythm early on, exerting pressure and keeping SAFC on their toes. They created the first proper chance of the game in the 21st minute as Alex Molano sent a free kick toward goal, but Matt Cardone dove low to his left and parried it away.
Missing that chance looked costly as Michael Reed, wearing the captain’s armband in the absence of Josh Ford and Rafa Castillo, broke the deadlock in the 30th minute. Fed from the right by Danny Garcia, Reed found space in the box and slid the ball inside the near post, scoring his third goal of the season. The goal put him in a four-way tie with Jason Johnson, Franck Tayou and Castillo as the team’s leading scorer in the league.
SAFC grabbed momentum for a few minutes, looking to double their lead, before Swope Park regained control and resumed their pressure on SAFC’s goal. Oumar Ballo headed the ball toward goal from a cross just before halftime, forcing Cardone into a point-blank save before the SAFC defense cleared the ball.
Trailing by a goal, Swope Park stepped up the pressure as the second half wore on and finally got their reward in the 71st minute. Ayrton’s cross in from the right found the head of Dane Kelly, the United Soccer League’s all-time leading scorer. The well-met cross floated out of Cardone’s reach, bounced off the crossbar and in, drawing the hosts level.
“Momentum is massive in soccer,” SAFC head coach Darren Powell said. “We lost the momentum of the game and they executed their chances when they had them.”
The equalizer inspired Swope Park to heap on the pressure and examine SAFC’s defense even more thoroughly, leading to their second goal of the match, which ended up being the game-winner, in the 84th minute. Cardone saved Tyler Pasher’s initial shot from a cross before Swope Park’s leading goalscorer Mark Anthony Gonzalez put in the rebound, turning the match around after SAFC had opened the scoring.
SAFC never found another clear-cut chance as Swope Park continued to control the flow of the game and saw out their come-from-behind lead. This was the second ever loss for SAFC when scoring first after they threw away an early 1-0 lead in the previous game against Los Angeles Galaxy II.
The game against Swope Park was also the last of SAFC goalkeeper Josh Ford’s three-game suspension for an altercation against Oklahoma City Energy FC on July 9. In his absence, Matt Cardone conceded five goals in three starts, notching one clean sheet and SAFC’s first-ever penalty kick save. Cardone also set the franchise record for saves in a single match, stopping nine shots in Saturday’s loss.
“(Matt) played well in goal and produced some good saves tonight,” Powell said. “It was a solid performance, which we expect from him.”
SAFC’s plays their second game of three straight on the road Aug. 6 against Sacramento Republic FC. That matchup will be the first ever between the two MLS expansion hopefuls and the only meeting in the regular season.
Final: Swope Park Rangers 2-1 SAFC
SAFC Starting XI (4-1-4-1): Matt Cardone; Milton Palacios, Sam McBride, Biko Bradnock-Brennan, Greg Cochrane; Miguel Salazar (Manolo Sanchez 86’); Carlos Alvarez, Danny Garcia (Franck Tayou 63’), Michael Reed(c) (Sebastien Thuriere 46’), Taylor Morgan (Jason Johnson 57’); Cesar Elizondo (Max Gunderson 80’)
Substitutes not used: Johnston, McCarthy
SAFC Discipline: Yellow card, Jason Johnson (1st of the season) Biko Bradnock-Brennan (2nd of the season)