Image: Sacramento Republic FC
San Antonio FC drew 1-1 with Sacramento Republic FC at Papa Murphy’s Park late Saturday night, bringing an end to the first half of their so-far-successful 2017 United Soccer League season.
After Diego Restrepo was sent off June 24 at Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, Lee Johnston got his first USL start against Sacramento. He found himself at the center of action multiple times for a variety of reasons in the first half.
In the ninth minute, Johnston risked a yellow or perhaps even red card after handling the ball outside the 18-yard box. The goalkeeper came out to get a ball which was rolling into his box, but after grabbing it, he fell forward and appeared to handle the ball beyond the boundary. A free kick was awarded just outside the box for what was listed as a handball, but no booking was issued.
Increasing their attacking impetus as the match wore on, the hosts took the lead in the 19th minute. Midfielder Danny Barrera played the ball forward for defender Emrah Klimenta, who hit the ball into the corner of the net with his first touch.
SAFC has now conceded goals in three consecutive matches for the first time this season – an odd twist for a team which focuses and prides itself on defending.
SAFC forward Akwafei Ajeakwa literally stumbled upon an equalizer in the 31st minute though. Midfielder Kris Tyrpak played the ball forward into the box, and though Ajeakwa lost his footing and stumbled a bit, he managed to get a foot on the ball, sending it past Sacramento goalkeeper Evan Newton.
Johnston again garnered attention in the 33rd minute after a double-save. While the first shot was parried by Johnston’s hands, the quick second shot hit him in the head. Johnston laid down on the pitch for a minute or two, prompting fears that SAFC would have to bring on Ryan Roushandel as a makeshift goalkeeper, but the starter was able to stay in.
SAFC began the second half more aggressively, with midfielder Billy Forbes testing the Republic FC defense on multiple occasions. Forbes’ first chance came in the 60th minute as he cut inside from the left and fired a shot toward goal, which was parried by Newton.
Johnston was called into action again in the 72nd minute as a long ball up the right side by Sacramento defender Elliot Hord found forward Wilson Kneeshaw, but the SAFC goalkeeper managed to stop the tight-angle shot.
Just seconds later, Forbes had another chance as he found space on the right to run toward the Sacramento goal. However, Forbes tried to cut inside once he reached the 18-yard box, allowing the defense to get back and prevent a shot, thereby killing the move.
The hosts stepped up their pressure in the late stages of the match and in the 80th minute missed a golden opportunity to hand SAFC their second straight loss. Forward Gabe Gissie sent the ball across the face of goal from the right, finding midfielder Dan Trickett-Smith unmarked at the far post, but the resulting shot was somehow nudged wide of the net.
While SAFC came away with a point on the road, the other club far ahead of the pack in the USL Western Conference standings, Real Monarchs SLC, were defeated 2-0 away to Tulsa Roughnecks FC. Real is still two points ahead of SAFC with a match in hand, but after going on a nine-match winning streak, they’ve now nabbed just one point from their last two outings.
Having completed the first half of the season, SAFC now has nearly two weeks off from USL play, facing Oklahoma City Energy FC on July 14. In the meantime though, the club will play a friendly match against Santos Laguna FC on July 8. Both matches are at Toyota Field.
SAFC Starting XI (4-1-4-1): Lee Johnston; Ben Newnam, Cyprian Hedrick, Sebastien Ibeagha, Greg Cochrane; Michael Reed(c), Kris Tyrpak (Mark O’Ojong 66’), Devin Vega (Aly Alberto Hassan 90’), Rafa Castillo, Billy Forbes; Akwafei Ajeakwa (Shawn Chin, 84’)
Substitutes not used: Roushandel (GK), McCarthy, Rodriguez, Araujo
SAFC Discipline: Ajeakwa (yellow card, 39th minute – first of the season)