Image: Jonathan Check, Pitch Black News

San Antonio FC will host an MLS team for the first time in their history at Toyota Field Wednesday night in the fourth round of the US Open Cup.

…is how this article would’ve started if not for a cruel elimination in the third round of the Open Cup on May 31 away to the Tulsa Roughnecks. After 120 scoreless but action-packed minutes of regulation and extra time, SAFC lost 7-6 on penalty kicks. The result also robbed them of the opportunity to host an MLS team – the holders of the cup, no less – for the first time.

Like professionals, the club didn’t linger on the loss – they couldn’t, not if they wanted to continue their quite bright start to the United Soccer League season.

“We continue to look forward each week,” SAFC Head Coach Darren Powell said. “What’s happened in the past has happened in the past.”

Powell said he and the team had no regrets from that match – and why should they? As he says, a scoreless draw away from home midweek capped off by a narrow loss in additional rounds of PKs isn’t bad.

Already, SAFC will come up against Tulsa again on Saturday, this time in USL play. While Powell and players insist it’s just another game, it’s not crazy to think they’d want a bit of revenge.

“We want to beat everybody, but the fact that they knocked us out of the Open Cup should be a little bit of extra motivation,” SAFC defender Cyprian Hedrick said.

Hedrick played all 120 minutes of the heartbreaking Open Cup loss, and he’s likely to start this Saturday in place of Stephen McCarthy, who will be suspended for one match after accumulating five yellow cards so far this season. As a former Oklahoma City Energy FC player, Hedrick may even still be able to channel some of the extra motivation that comes with a Black Gold Derby between the in-state rivals.

The veteran defender added you should think a bit anytime you lose, but you have to move on. SAFC midfielder Devin Vega added nobody wants to go out like they did, but the team learned from the match.

Tulsa and SAFC keep meeting on different stages in 2017: first a 1-1 friendly draw in March, then the narrow loss on PKs in the Open Cup and soon a USL bout. Vega thinks it could be developing into somewhat of a mini-rivalry. After all, the clubs are relatively close, and both of their clashes this year have been rather competitive.

Tulsa struggled mightily in 2016, finishing last in the USL Western Conference. Even a mid-table SAFC side was able to win all three of the teams’ matchups last year by a combined score of 7-2.

Tulsa have started brighter this year and are part of the massive midtable scrap in the USL West. However, they’ve now dropped off somewhat as of late, losing three of their last four USL matches.

And as a consequence of narrowly edging SAFC in the Open Cup, Tulsa will travel to face FC Dallas themselves Wednesday night before perhaps just going straight to San Antonio – advancing in the Open Cup isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.

That was one silver lining of SAFC’s loss on May 31: the ability to focus all their attention on the league. The second place club’s league dominance has slowed down a bit in recent weeks. Still, Hedrick and likely others will want to make the most of all their attention now being on the USL.

“We’ve just got to worry about the (USL) season and that’s what we have left, so that’s where our attention is now.”

Posted by J. Check

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