Image: Michael Rincon, Phoenix Rising FC
San Antonio FC grabbed their first win in over a month on Saturday night, 1-0 away to Phoenix Rising FC.
SAFC came into the match leading the United Soccer League Western Conference in draws with seven, including three straight, and were winless in four. SAFC had lost points in each of their last two matches due to late equalizers.
“Hopefully that’s a change for our squad,” SAFC defender Stephen McCarthy said. “We really needed a win and we got it on the road, which is huge.”
SAFC got forward and put pressure on the Phoenix goal often but struggled to create clear chances. Phoenix, with their star-studded offense, looked to nick a goal on the counter and scared the SAFC defense on a few occasions in the first half.
A loose pass in midfield half an hour into the match presented one of the best chances of the first half, going the way of Phoenix. Midfielder Shaun Wright-Phillips pounced on the mistake and ran forward with the ball, but SAFC goalkeeper Diego Restrepo managed to save the shot for a corner.
In the second half, the teams switched more than just directions. Phoenix got forward much more in the second half, forcing SAFC to look for chances on the counter – a stance which actually saw SAFC at their most deadly early in the season.
Instead of SAFC conceding another late goal like in previous weeks, they grabbed one of their own through a controversially-awarded penalty kick. Phoenix goalkeeper Josh Cohen collided with SAFC forward Cesar Elizondo in the 82nd minute after Elizondo touched the ball out of reach.
After the Phoenix fans howled with disapproval, quite a bit of it directed at the referee rather than Elizondo, midfielder Rafa Castillo stepped up and buried the penalty past Cohen in the 85th minute.
Phoenix stepped up their attacking even more in the final ten minutes of the match, but this time the SAFC defense saw the lead out.
“We sustained, towards the end of the match, a flurry of free kicks and corner kicks – and we stood tall and I can’t be prouder of the players for that performance tonight,” SAFC Head Coach Darren Powell said.
With the win, SAFC temporarily sits in second place in the USL Western Conference standings, at least until Swope Park Rangers plays on Sunday.
SAFC returns to Toyota Field for their next match on August 5 to face Orange County SC for the first time since they rebranded from the Orange County Blues.
SAFC Starting XI (4-1-4-1): Diego Restrepo; Ben Newnam, Sebastien Ibeagha, Stephen McCarthy, Greg Cochrane; Michael Reed(c); Kris Tyrpak (Pecka 78’), Mark O’Ojong (Cesar Elizondo 62’), Rafa Castillo, Billy Forbes; Akwafei Ajeakwa (Shawn Chin 90’)
Substitutes not used: Johnston, Roushandel, Rodriguez, Hassan
SAFC Discipline: Mark O’Ojong (yellow card, 27th minute – third of the season), Rafa Castillo (yellow card, 37th minute – second of the season), Kris Tyrpak (yellow card, 75th minute – third of the season), Cesar Elizondo (yellow card, 80th minute – third of the season), Stephen McCarthy (yellow card, 90th minute – seventh of the season)