Image: Jonathan Check, Pitch Black News
San Antonio FC defeated Houston Dutch Lions FC 2-1 Wednesday night in Conroe, Texas, in the second round of the 2017 US Open Cup and SAFC’s first outing in the competition
The most striking occurrence of the night may have come an hour before kickoff though as SAFC Head Coach Darren Powell revealed a heavily-rotated lineup. While Powell made a few changes for Open Cup games in 2016, improved squad depth this year meant defender Ben Newnam and midfielder Rafa Castillo were the only regulars to start against Dutch Lions FC.
“We’re very pleased with our guys,” Powell said. “We have a lot of guys who haven’t been playing in the first team in regular season games, so it was a good opportunity for them to play tonight in a competitive environment and show what they’re capable of doing.”
Perhaps most notably, goalkeeper Lee Johnston got his first appearance and start for SAFC since joining the club before the 2016 season. Recent signings Andrew Moullin, a defender who SAFC announced they had acquired just a few hours before the match, and midfielder Mark O’Ojong also made their first appearances for SAFC. All three debutants played the full match.
SAFC had the better of play in the first half and capitalized on their dominance in the 17th minute. Midfielder Victor Araujo struck a low free kick which Dutch Lions FC goalkeeper Marc Olson could only watch helplessly, rooted to the spot, as it flew past him.
Continued SAFC pressure on the hosts found its reward in the 41st minute. Forward Aly Alberto Hassan took advantage of defensive miscommunication and intercepted a backpass before rounding Olson and slotting the ball into the net to double SAFC’s lead.
Houston wouldn’t go down without a fight in their first ever Open Cup run though and put the pressure right back on SAFC in the second half. They halved the deficit in the 62nd minute after a scramble near the SAFC goal resulted in a Houston player powering the ball past Johnston.
Dutch Lions FC only got more aggressive as the half wore on and came close to equalizing on a couple of occasions, but a combination of luck and good defending saw SAFC ride their lead to the final whistle.
SAFC defender Cyprian Hedrick also saw his first action since injuring himself in the season opener at Rio Grande Valley FC on March 26.
SAFC will be on the road again for their third round matchup on May 31. They’ll face a Tulsa Roughnecks side who won 5-3 against the Oklahoma City Energy U23s also on Wednesday.
SAFC Starting XI (4-1-4-1): Lee Johnston; Ben Newnam (Cyprian Hedrick 63’), Ryan Roushandel, Andrew Moullin, Juan Niño; Mark O’Ojong; Shawn Chin, Maxi Rodriguez, Rafa Castillo(c) (Pecka 81’), Victor Araujo; Aly Alberto Hassan (Devin Vega 75’)
Substitutes not used: Restrepo, Cochrane, Forbes, Ajeakwa
SAFC Discipline: N/A