Image: Nick Tre. Smith, Swope Park Rangers
San Antonio FC scored the only goal in a matchup against Swope Park Rangers at Swope Soccer Village in Kansas City, Missouri on Friday night to continue their unbeaten start to 2017.
The teams had used quite different styles so far this season, and both stuck to their guns for this match. Swope has been known to possess the ball heavily and exploit holes which open up, while SAFC allows teams to outpossess them and hopes to quickly counter and snatch goals.
Both sides sussed each other out early on, the match gently ebbing and flowing in the early stages. The first serious chance fell to the home side in the 15th minute as intricate passing found forward Nansel Selbol in the middle of the box, but his stop was tipped over by SAFC goalkeeper Diego Restrepo.
Selbol again found himself on the end of a Swope chance just two minutes later as midfielder Kevin Oliveira slid the ball to him from the right side of the box. Restrepo again denied Selbol though, getting down to tip the ball away just before the attacker could redirect it.
Within a minute, SAFC had a chance of their own – on the break, of course. Midfielders linked up as Mark O’Ojong lofted the ball forward for Billy Forbes, who raced up the left side of the pitch and cut inside, firing just wide.
As the half wore on, Swope Park controlled more of the match in terms of both possession and attacking chances. A few times, when SAFC got forward, Swope even looked to try beating the visitors at their own game with a quick counter, but it didn’t come off quite as easy as SAFC makes it look.
The pattern of the match persisted into the second half, and the question of whose style would pay off was answered soon enough. SAFC’s Michael Reed found midfield counterpart Kris Tyrpak with a pass out to the right. Tyrpak had space to run and swing in a pinpoint cross for O’Ojong to head into the net, marking his first league start for SAFC with a goal.
Just two minutes later, SAFC nearly doubled their lead as Forbes sent a ball in to Tyrpak, but the former Swope player skied his shot.
Swope further ratcheted up the pressure as the minutes ticked away. Perhaps their best chance came in the 81st minute as a ball headed to the top of the box by Swope found Oliveira, who chested the ball to control and quickly volleyed it, shooting just high.
Swope continued to push for a goal but SAFC had just enough to hold them off. The result snapped a nine-match winning streak for Swope Park at home, handing them their first defeated at Swope Soccer village since Sept. 3, 2016.
Friday’s win was also SAFC’s first ever against Swope Park Rangers. Swope won both meetings at their venue in 2016, while the clubs played to a 1-1 draw in SAFC’s first ever home match earlier in the year.
SAFC’s defense continues to hold strong, having not conceded in United Soccer League play in 465 minutes, via a penalty kick against Seattle Sounders FC 2 on April 25. That entails a run of five clean sheets for goalkeeper Diego Restrepo and his defense.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our guys,” SAFC Head Coach Darren Powell said. “They had to work extremely hard tonight and earn everything they got.”
SAFC will return to US Open Cup play next as they travel to take on fellow USL side Tulsa Roughnecks FC on Wednesday. The winner of that match can look forward to a date with MLS’s FC Dallas in the fourth round.
SAFC Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Diego Restrepo; Ben Newnam, Sebastien Ibeagha, Stephen McCarthy, Greg Cochrane; Michael Reed(c), Pecka (Rafa Castillo 90’); Kris Tyrpak, Mark O’Ojong, Billy Forbes; Akwafei Ajeakwa (Shawn Chin 62’)
Substitutes not used: Johnston, Hedrick, Rodriguez, Vega, Hassan
SAFC Discipline: Billy Forbes (yellow card, 60th minute – first of the season), Mark O’Ojong (yellow card, 79th minute – first of the season), Kris Tyrpak (yellow card, 90th minute – first of the season)