Image: Darren Abate, San Antonio FC
San Antonio FC defeated Seattle Sounders FC 2 by a score of 3-2 on Tuesday night at Starfire Sports Complex in Seattle. Rookie midfielder Devin Vega’s first professional goal was ultimately the difference between the teams.
SAFC Head Coach Darren Powell contended with the second of three games in seven days by again rotating his squad and resting a few players. Midfielders Zach Herivaux, who is on loan from MLS’s New England Revolution, and Juan Niño were included in the starting lineup for their first appearances of the season. Diego Restrepo also started in goal for the injured Matt Cardone.
“Tonight was a very difficult game,” Powell said. “Seattle asked a lot of us defensively, but our guys hung in there and fought hard. We rested a few guys, but earning three points in this league is extremely valuable.”
Out of the gates, Seattle controlled the flow of the match, though SAFC gained more of a share as the first half wore on. As early as the sixth minute, Restrepo and the SAFC defense were seriously tested and had a few close calls but managed to repel the Seattle attack.
After weathering the early storm, SAFC managed to snatch the lead in the 13th minute following a shot from distance by midfielder Rafa Castillo. Though Seattle goalkeeper Tyler Miller parried the initial attempt away, SAFC defender Ben Newnam was first to the rebound and he sent it across the face of goal for forward Akwafei Ajeakwa to tap in for his first goal of the season.
A defensive miscue by Seattle graciously allowed SAFC to double their lead in the 24th minute. Restrepo’s goal kick was headed onward by Ajeakwa and Seattle defender Sam Rogers missed his attempted clearance, allowing SAFC midfielder Billy Forbes to latch onto the ball and send it past Miller. Forbes has now scored in five of SAFC’s first six matches and trails the United Soccer League’s leading scorer, Djiby Fall of FC Cincinnati, by just one goal.
As they had at the start of the game, Seattle began the second half on the front foot and their efforts paid off in the 55th minute. After their corner was cleared, defender Brian Nana-Sinkam lofted the ball back into the box where Rogers atoned for his earlier mistake by volleying past Restrepo to cut SAFC’s lead in half.
The goal inspired Seattle to push forward even more, but it was SAFC who’d reap the benefit. A quick counter in the 69th minute saw Vega bring the ball up the left side, fool his defender and ultimately slide the ball past Miller from a tight angle for his first professional goal and what turned out to be the game-winner.
“First and foremost, I’m glad we got the three points, but to get on the scoresheet is a great feeling,” Vega said
SAFC’s restored two-goal lead only lasted six minutes though. Midfielder Zach Mathers sent Restrepo the wrong way on a penalty kick in the 75th minute after Roushandel brought down midfielder Irvin Parra in the 18-yard box a minute earlier. Seattle continued to push for an equalizer and came close on a few occasions, but SAFC managed to defend their precarious lead in the waning minutes of the match.
Physicality also plagued the last portion of the match, with both teams combining for three yellow cards and one red in the final 20 minutes after having amassed only four yellows up to that point in the match. Some may even say the referee lost control as both sides got away with actions which would normally warrant cards.
The win is SAFC’s fifth through six matches and gave SAFC some breathing room at the top of the USL western conference. The closest contender is Real Monarchs SLC, who trail SAFC by four points but now have a game in hand.
SAFC will play their third and final match of this Pacific Northwest road trip on Friday against Portland Timbers 2 at Providence Park.
SAFC Starting XI (4-1-4-1): Diego Restrepo; Ben Newnam, Sebastien Ibeagha(c), Ryan Roushandel, Greg Cochrane; Juan Niño (Pecka 56’); Zach Herivaux, Maxi Rodriguez, Rafa Castillo, Billy Forbes (Devin Vega 46’); Akwafei Ajeakwa (Cesar Elizondo 65’)
Substitutes not used: Johnston, McCarthy, Chin, Hassan
SAFC Discipline: Zach Herivaux (yellow card, 16th minute – first of the season), Greg Cochrane (yellow card, 28th minute – first of the season), Sebastien Ibeagha (yellow card, 61st minute – third of the season), Cesar Elizondo (yellow card, 90th minute – second of the season)