Image: Jesus Miguel Garcia (jesusmiguelgarcia.com), Pitch Black News
San Antonio FC and Seattle Sounders FC 2 played to a scoreless draw on Saturday night at Toyota Field in the first match of the season where SAFC was held scoreless.
SAFC came away from the clubs’ first meeting of 2017 in Seattle on April 25 with a 3-2 win. They came into Saturday’s match undefeated and remain that way, while Seattle earned its first draw of the season after winning and losing four apiece previously.
“We only had one mistake that almost cost us,” SAFC defender Sebastien Ibeagha said. “The whole 11 defended well and that’s been our foundation for everything we do; we just need to keep that going forward.”
SAFC controlled the flow of the match from early on in the first half, finding particular success on the left side through midfielder Billy Forbes and defender Greg Cochrane. Seattle, like Colorado Springs and Sacramento before them, came to Toyota Field and made life difficult for SAFC though, giving them less time and space to work with and staying organized.
The prominence of attacks on the left was clear in the 27th minute as Greg Cochrane crossed the ball in a second time after his first attempt was blocked. Forward Akwafei Ajeakwa barely got on the end of the cross and couldn’t redirect it enough to put his header on target.
Forbes was heavily involved late in the half in seeking a goal for SAFC. He slid the ball across the box in the 40th minute only for midfielder Michael Reed to blast the ball over on a first-time strike. Just three minutes later, midfielder Rafa Castillo lofted a ball to an onrushing Forbes who took it down under little pressure, but his volley was parried well by Seattle goalkeeper Tyler Miller.
SAFC’s first real chance of the second half came in the 52nd minute as Forbes played the ball in from the left, but Reed’s first-time shot went wide of the goal this time.
Two minutes later, Seattle nearly snatched the lead off a quick counter. Midfielder Irvin Parra found space on the right side and played the ball across to onrushing forward Shandon Hopeau, but the SAFC defense managed to shut him down and play the ball away.
Seattle again threatened in the 71st minute with arguably their best chance of the match, off an SAFC defensive blunder. After SAFC defender Stephen McCarthy couldn’t control a backpass and Ibeagha lost his footing, Seattle midfielder David Olsen latched onto the ball and got a shot off, but it ricocheted off the crossbar.
Just as Forbes was active late in the first half, midfielder Kris Tyrpak was the same in the second. In the 75th minute, he found his way around the Seattle defense, but his shot went into the side netting. Eight minutes later, he volleyed just wide of goal on a shot which suddenly presented itself. Neither side would generate another chance of note before the final whistle.
The match was the first in which SAFC was held scoreless this season. The closest they came previously was the 1-1 draw on April 7 against the Colorado Springs Switchbacks when midfielder Kris Tyrpak scored a 79th minute goal to salvage a point.
“(Seattle) came in with a game plan and stuck to it, made it very difficult for us,” SAFC Head Coach Darren Powell said.
Midfielder Victor Araujo came off the bench and played his first minutes for SAFC since June 2016 when he suffered a season-ending injury. Midfielder Mark O’Ojong, who SAFC acquired from Seattle in late April, also made the bench Saturday night but didn’t see the pitch.
Next Saturday, SAFC will close out its three-game home stand against Phoenix Rising FC. The visiting club has yet to include superstar signing and part-owner Didier Drogba in any matchday squad, so a contest against the team at the top of the table wouldn’t be a bad time for them to change that.
SAFC Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Diego Restrepo; Ben Newnam (Shawn Chin 83’), Sebastien Ibeagha, Stephen McCarthy, Greg Cochrane; Michael Reed(c) (Devin Vega 58’), Pecka; Kris Tyrpak, Rafa Castillo, Billy Forbes; Akwafei Ajeakwa (Victor Araujo 76’)
Substitutes not used: Johnston, Roushandel, O’Ojong, Hassan
SAFC Discipline: Michael Reed (yellow card, 30th minute – second of the season), Ben Newnam (yellow card, 45th minute – third of the season), Rafa Castillo (yellow card, 81st minute – first of the season), Victor Araujo (yellow card, 90th minute – first of the season)