Image: Darren Abate, USL
San Antonio FC defeated Reno 1868 FC 4-0 on Saturday night at Toyota Field, earning their biggest win in club history and closing out a three-game home stand on a high.
“Tonight, we capitalized on the chances that we had and we scored the goals at the right times,” SAFC Head Coach Darren Powell said. “Goals do change games, and tonight, that certainly happened.”
The first half was quite open and exciting with both sides getting forward and creating chances often. However, both also defended well, particularly SAFC who kept Reno at bay while conceding seven corners.
Reno nearly grabbed the lead in the 26th minute as midfielder Antoine Hoppenot swung the ball in from the right and it nearly snuck into the net. SAFC goalkeeper Matt Cardone reached high and was able to tip it over for a corner.
However, it ended up being SAFC who finally opened the scoring in the 34th minute. Midfielder Billy Forbes gained possession on the left flank and charged at the Reno defense before slotting the ball past Reno goalkeeper Matt Bersano. Forbes has scored in three of SAFC’s first four games in 2017 to lead the team in that respect.
The second half was just as open as the first but not quite as frenetic. SAFC didn’t have trouble finding space between and behind the Reno defense as the half wore on though, allowing SAFC to pile on more goals.
SAFC doubled its lead in the 68th minute with Forbes involved yet again. A quick counter saw him play a long ball through for forward Cesar Elizondo, who slid the ball into the net with his first touch after letting the ball come just perfectly into his path. This was Elizondo’s first goal of the season despite being so integral to most of SAFC’s attacks so far.
One goal soon became two for Elizondo in the 79th minute. A clever one-two with defender Sebastien Ibeagha found Elizondo running forward with space to get off a shot, which he lightly chipped over Bersano to make the score 3-0.
After coming on in the 78th minute, San Antonio native and midfielder Devin Vega made the night even better for SAFC when he drew a penalty in stoppage time after cutting inside and being brought down in the box. Rafa Castillo stepped up and struck his penalty right down the center to give SAFC a four-goal tally for the first time ever, and their best win in club history.
“We knew we could get first place (in the table), so everybody just came out and we were all hungry,” Vega said.
While the offense is likely to get all the attention, SAFC’s defense held strong all night against an impressive Reno attack which included all-time leading United Soccer League scorer Dane Kelly, who started and played 80 minutes. SAFC cleared the ball a whopping 32 times and Cardone made five saves, a few of which were impressive tips over the bar to preserve SAFC’s third clean sheet of the season.
SAFC remains one of just three teams in the USL still undefeated in 2017. Saturday’s win, as Vega noted, sent SAFC to the top of the western conference table on 10 points after just four games.
The club will now travel to the Pacific Northwest for matches against Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2, Seattle Sounders FC 2 and Portland Timbers 2 all within the span of a week. The match against Vancouver will mark the first time SAFC has played there or anywhere outside the United States.
SAFC Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Matt Cardone; Ben Newnam, Sebastien Ibeagha, Stephen McCarthy, Greg Cochrane; Michael Reed(c) (Maxi Rodriguez 63’), Pecka; Kris Tyrpak (Devin Vega 78’), Rafa Castillo, Billy Forbes; Cesar Elizondo (Aly Alberto Hassan 86’)
Substitutes not used: Restrepo, Roushandel, Ajeakwa, Chin
SAFC Discipline: Pecka (yellow card, 69’ – first of the season