Image: Darren Abate, San Antonio FC
“It’s not easy to play against the same team twice.”
Those were the words of San Antonio FC goalkeeper Diego Restrepo after his team’s scoreless draw with Swope Park Rangers Saturday night at Toyota Field.
Besides SAFC’s midweek US Open Cup match against Tulsa Roughnecks FC, they played Swope Park twice in United Soccer League play in a home-and-home series.
“To get four points in a two-game series…I think heading into that series, we would certainly have taken that,” SAFC Head Coach Darren Powell said. “These games are very tight, week in, week out.”
Midfielder Zachary Herivaux returned to SAFC on loan from MLS’s New England Revolution and was handed a start straightaway. Herivaux scored one goal in three appearances totaling 108 minutes with SAFC earlier this season.
Swope Park controlled the early stages of the match and got the first good chance in the fifth minute. Forward Nansel Selbol found space on the right side of the box for a shot, but Restrepo got down to make the save.
SAFC had more of a hold on the match than they did the previous week when they conceded over three-quarters of possession to Swope Park. In the 14th minute, midfielder Billy Forbes beat his defender on the left flank and got to the byline before sliding a cross in front of goal, but the Rangers defense cleared it away.
SAFC got another good chance in the 26th minute after pressuring the visitors for a few minutes. Forbes was again at the center as he dribbled neatly through Swope Park players and eventually got off a shot, but goalkeeper David Greczek denied him and SAFC the opening goal. In the end, Forbes’ dribbling to start the move was much more impressive than the shot to finish it.
SAFC continued to assert themselves and had a better share of play for the rest of the first half. Both sides had the occasional chance, but nothing seriously threatened to break the deadlock before halftime arrived.
Swope was again on the attack to start the second half and continued to press SAFC through the second 45 minutes. However, the SAFC defense which hasn’t conceded in USL play since April was again up to the challenge and repelled what the Rangers threw at them.
SAFC at least mustered chances from time to time, the most dangerous of the second half coming in the 72nd minute. Pecka played a ball through on the right for fellow midfielder Kris Tyrpak, but the latter’s dangerous cross in front of goal went untouched by an SAFC player and was cleared.
Defender Greg Cochrane received SAFC’s second ever red card in competitive play in the 82nd minute. What looked to be a fair and equal challenge with Swope Park midfielder Christian Duke for a loose ball was deemed a dangerous tackle by the referee.
Swope Park nearly snatched a late goal in the 59th minute and dealt SAFC their first loss in the USL this season, thwarted only by SAFC defender Stephen McCarthy. Swope midfielder Louis Bennett got off a first-time shot after the ball was cut back to him, but McCarthy headed the effort off the line.
Nobody managed to grab a goal in the final minutes, handing SAFC their second scoreless draw in the last three home matches.
After almost a month out, forward Cesar Elizondo returned to the fold for SAFC, coming on as a substitute in the 61st minute. Questions began to surface about Elizondo’s status as he hadn’t appeared in either the club’s injury reports or matchday squads for multiple matches in a row.
“I’m very excited to be back with the team,” Elizondo said. “We’re still in a good spot, and I think we just have to work hard.”
Saturday’s result also meant SAFC fell from their perch at the top of the USL Western Conference. Real Monarchs SLC bypassed SAFC with their 1-0 win over Orange County SC. SAFC has a chance to return to winning ways and keep up With Real Monarchs next Saturday in Oklahoma City against Energy FC.
SAFC Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Diego Restrepo; Ben Newnam, Sebastien Ibeagha, Stephen McCarthy, Greg Cochrane; Michael Reed(c), Pecka; Kris Tyrpak (Shawn Chin 80’), Zachary Herivaux, Billy Forbes (Devin Vega 74’); Akwafei Ajeakwa (Cesar Elizondo 61’)
Substitutes not used: Johnston, Hedrick, Castillo, O’Ojong
SAFC Discipline: Greg Cochrane (red card, 82nd minute – first of the season)