Image: Steven Christy, OKC Energy FC
Neither San Antonio FC nor Oklahoma City Energy FC could find the back of the net at Taft Stadium in their United Soccer League contest on Saturday night.
SAFC played to a scoreless draw for the third time in their last five USL matches. Their defense means they’ve kept clean sheets in the last seven, but scoring goals continues to be a problem as of late.
Both sides were short on regular players for Saturday’s match. After picking up a red card late in the June 3 match against Swope Park Rangers, SAFC defender Greg Cochrane took no part against Energy FC. It was SAFC’s first USL match in club history without him.
Energy FC goalkeeper Cody Laurendi was away on international duty for Puerto Rico, while forward Wojciech Wojcik is out indefinitely with an injury sustained on June 6 at home against Phoenix Rising FC.
“That makes seven clean sheets in a row, which is something that takes a lot of hard work and effort from every player,” SAFC Head Coach Darren Powell said. “There’s a lot to build on and we earned another point on the road, and now we look to keep improving week after week.”
SAFC was permitted 54.3 percent of possession in the first half but found it tough to break through the Energy FC defense. A fairly common strategy was to send the ball up the middle of the pitch, where Oklahoma City defenders were marking SAFC’s intended target tightly. As the first half wore on, the hosts got forward more often and stressed SAFC’s defense more.
SAFC’s first proper chance came in the seventh minute as midfielder Billy Forbes held the ball up and fed it to overlapping defender Ben Newnam, but the cross into the box was grabbed comfortably by Energy FC goalkeeper C.J. Cochran, filling in for Laurendi.
A good chance came Energy FC’s way in the 19th minute through buildup play on the right side. The ball was fed into the box to forward Andy Craven, who turned and fired a shot toward the top corner which was saved by SAFC goalkeeper Diego Restrepo.
Energy FC had another chance in the 42nd minute as midfielder Jose Barrill beat Shawn Chin, who moved to right back while Ben Newnam filled in for Cochrane on the opposite side of defense, and slid a ball in front of goal. SAFC goalkeeper Diego Restrepo kick-saved the ball out for a corner which yielded nothing.
SAFC came right out of the gates after halftime and created a chance within one minute. Chin sent a cross into the box from the right, but nobody from SAFC was able to redirect it toward goal.
Restrepo came up against Craven again in the 66th minute off another ball slipped into the box. Craven made a diagonal run and latched onto the pass forward, only for Restrepo to deny him at close range.
Forbes created another chance for SAFC in the 76th minute as he stole the ball from an Energy FC defender and raced up the left side of the pitch. He slid a cross into the box but the Oklahoma City defense didn’t allow an uncontested shot and ultimately cleared the ball.
The left side of the pitch was Forbes’ stage again in the 86th minute when he found perhaps SAFC’s best chance of the night. He snuck between two defenders and fired a shot across goal which went just wide right.
“It’s positive to continue earning points, especially on the road,” Restrepo said. “Obviously, we’re a team that wants to win and we’re a little frustrated, but we just have to work and keep improving.”
Despite Cochrane returning from suspension for June 17, bookings will continue to hurt SAFC’s defense as Stephen McCarthy picked up his fifth yellow card and will serve a one-match suspension. Ben Newnam’s yellow card Saturday night means he’s now one away from suspension as well. One bright spot is Sebastien Ibeagha going five matches without a booking, meaning he will have one wiped away.
SAFC faces Tulsa Roughnecks FC at Toyota Field on June 17, looking to avenge their loss on sudden-death penalty kicks in the third round of the US Open Cup on May 31 in Tulsa.
SAFC Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Diego Restrepo; Shawn Chin, Sebastien Ibeagha, Stephen McCarthy, Ben Newnam; Mark O’Ojong, Pecka; Kris Tyrpak (Zachary Herivaux 74’), Rafa Castillo, Billy Forbes; Akwafei Ajeakwa (Aly Alberto Hassan 68’)
Substitutes not used: Johnston, Hedrick, Reed, Rodriguez, Araujo
SAFC Discipline: Mark O’Ojong (yellow card, 45th minute – second of the season), Ben Newnam (yellow card, 56th minute – fourth of the season), Stephen McCarthy (yellow card, 70th minute – fifth of the season)