Image: Darren Abate, San Antonio FC
San Antonio FC beat Los Angeles Galaxy II 3-0 on Saturday night in SAFC’s 2017 home opener at Toyota Field.
SAFC picked up right where they left off last week in their 1-0 win over the Rio Grande Valley FC Toros as LA put intense pressure on the home side’s goal early on.
However, SAFC weathered the storm and began to get a foothold in the game after that. The home side got forward in the 10th minute and created a few chances which were repelled by LA for two corners and ultimately cleared.
SAFC continued to push forward though and reaped their reward in the 12th minute. Forward Cesar Elizondo played midfielder Billy Forbes through on goal and after LA’s defense denied him twice, he cut the ball back for midfielder Rafa Castillo, who sent it into the top corner of the net and the fans into ecstatic celebrations.
The three players involved in SAFC’s first goal have been reunited this season after spending a year and a half together with the now-defunct San Antonio Scorpions in 2014 and 2015. Castillo signed on with SAFC from the start of the 2016 season, Elizondo arrived midway through and Forbes returned at the start of 2017.
“It feels great to be back with (guys like Castillo and Elizondo), and you can tell with the way we play, we know each other,” Forbes said. That first goal wouldn’t be the last time their chemistry showed either.
After LA defender Tyler Turner nearly erased SAFC’s lead in the 27th minute with a dangerous cross just in front of goal, the home side doubled it two minutes later. Again, the LA defense kept them at bay initially before midfielder Michael Reed tapped home after SAFC defender Ben Newnam sent the ball back in and Elizondo decided to let it run past him.
In almost a carbon copy of the first half, the visitors started the second with a good amount of pressure. SAFC struggled more and resorted to some panicked defending which ultimately got the job done. The half evened out more but LA still dictated the flow of the game more than SAFC.
Forbes gave SAFC its third goal in the 77th minute, though this time it required no second chance like the two before. The ball was lobbed upfield and Elizondo brought it down before playing it forward for an onrushing Forbes, whose shot trickled in despite LA goalkeeper Jon Kempin getting a touch.
SAFC kept the ball in LA’s half for a good portion of the closing stages after LA midfielder and captain Jaime Villarreal was sent off in the 86th minute for dissent. That allowed SAFC to see out their second straight win to start the season.
“If every man does his job, knows his role, does what he’s supposed to do, then we can be successful,” SAFC Head Coach Darren Powell said. “We know it’s a very long season and we’ve got a lot of work to do over the next couple of months, but we’ve got a group of players in there that are prepared to do that.”
While LA dictated the flow of the match with over 60% of possession, SAFC attacked fervently when they could, outshooting the visitors 10 to 5 (6 to 1 on target) and being called offside seven times.
Saturday’s crowd of 8,081 was the second largest for SAFC behind only 2016’s home opener, which drew 8,466.
The club has raced out of the gates compared to their inaugural season in 2016. They’ve already gotten two consecutive wins and clean sheets, feats which took them until June and July, respectively, last year. Saturday’s 3-0 win also tied for their biggest ever, having won by the same scoreline in their first ever game against Seattle Sounders FC II in 2016.
SAFC will look to equal their all-time record of three straight wins and could grab their first three-match clean sheet streak as well on Friday night against the Colorado Springs Switchbacks at Toyota Field.
SAFC Starting XI (4-1-4-1): Matt Cardone; Ben Newnam, Sebastien Ibeagha, Stephen McCarthy (Ryan Roushandel 74’), Greg Cochrane; Pecka; Kris Tyrpak (Shawn Chin 63’), Michael Reed(c) (Maxi Rodriguez 79’), Rafa Castillo, Billy Forbes; Cesar Elizondo
Substitutes not used: Restrepo, Vega, Ajeakwa, Hassan
SAFC Discipline: Stephen McCarthy (yellow card, 18′ – first of the season), Cesar Elizondo (yellow card, 90+’ – first of the season)