Image: Darren Abate, USL
San Antonio FC again forfeited a lead late in a match Saturday night, drawing 2-2 with Real Monarchs SLC at Toyota Field.
The match has been on everybody’s radar for a few months now as the two sides pushed toward the top of the USL Western Conference table from the start. Coming into Saturday’s match, Real sat atop the table while SAFC had slipped behind Swope Park Rangers into third, courtesy of a Swope win Thursday night.
“Every point is an earned point,” SAFC Head Coach Darren Powell said. “We played the team in first place today and the guys put an effort forth that the fans, the coaches, everybody can be very proud of and unfortunately we didn’t get the three points.
In a strange change from what usually happens, SAFC came out of the gates and pushed forward in the early minutes of the match. Soon though, Real found their attacking impetus and the chances began to go both ways.
SAFC had the first great chance of the match in the 17th minute off a Real giveaway in the center of the pitch. Midfielder Rafa Castillo advanced with the ball and played it through to forward Akwafei Ajeakwa making a run on the right, but Ajeakwa’s shot hit the post after he cut inside and the opportunity disappeared.
SAFC managed to capitalize off of a Real giveaway for the opening goal ten minutes later though. Billy Forbes stole the ball from a Real defender on the left side of the 18-yard box and played the ball centrally, where Devin Vega took the ball, found space and placed a shot precisely in the bottom corner of the net. The two midfielders switched roles after Vega assisted Forbes July 14 against Oklahoma City Energy FC.
The lead only lasted a few minutes though as SAFC defender Sebastien Ibeagha brought down Real forward Chandler Hoffman in the box, conceding a penalty kick in the 30th minute. Two minutes after earning the spot kick, Hoffman sent SAFC goalkeeper Diego Restrepo the wrong way to level the match.
The second half picked up where the first left off, with both sides getting chances and threatening to snatch the lead.
SAFC regained the lead in the 68th minute off a Castillo free kick. The veteran midfielder swung the ball in and Ibeagha headed it across the face of goal where midfielder Kris Tyrpak poked it in. In the following minutes, SAFC kept pushing, trying to grab an insurance goal, but it never arrived…
…and SAFC was made to once again rue their missed chances and drop two points. Real midfielder Chase Minter crossed in from the right and defender Max Lachowecki headed it back across goal and beyond the fingertips of a diving Restrepo in the 86th minute. Two matches, three leads lost, two points instead of six for SAFC.
“Nobody wants to give up a goal in the last ten minutes of a game and it’s happened twice in two weeks,” Tyrpak said. “It’s rough on us, but we’ve had complete performances for 85 minutes of the game, so if we can close out that last five minutes, I think we should be good for the rest of the season.”
Real pushed for a winning goal in the latter stages but also didn’t seem too desperate – as long as they kept SAFC from closing the gap on them at home, the trip was a successful one.
Predictably, Powell described the result as “a point earned,” which is a more acceptable concession than usual for SAFC because of the high-caliber opposition. However, everybody involved will be frustrated with their inability to hold onto leads and working toward remedying the issue in the future.
SAFC Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Diego Restrepo; Cyprian Hedrick, Sebastien Ibeagha, Stephen McCarthy, Greg Cochrane; Rafa Castillo, Michael Reed(c); Kris Tyrpak (Cesar Elizondo 79’), Devin Vega (Maxi Rodriguez 84’), Billy Forbes; Akwafei Ajeakwa
Substitutes not used: Johnston, Roushandel, O’Ojong, Araujo, Hassan
SAFC Discipline: Stephen McCarthy (yellow card, 52nd minute – sixth of the season)