Image: Darren Abate, USL
San Antonio FC succumbed to a late equalizer for the third time in four matches on Saturday night, drawing 1-1 with Orange County SC at Toyota Field.
“We had several opportunities in the game to put it away, so we’ve just got to capitalize on those opportunities earlier in the game,” said SAFC defender Ben Newnam.
The home side wasted little time opening the scoring and in fact bagged their fastest goal in club history in just the second minute. Defender Greg Cochrane crossed the ball from the endline for midfielder Kris Tyrpak to head in from point-blank range past Orange County goalkeeper Charlie Lyon.
SAFC continued to push Orange County and nearly doubled their lead in the 18th minute thanks mostly to the work of forward Akwafei Ajeakwa. After a clean first touch and run up the center of the pitch, Ajeakwa nudged the ball forward for onrushing midfielder Billy Forbes, whose powerful shot went off the crossbar and out.
Orange County stepped up their game a bit in the second half and dug up a decent chance in the 54th minute. Midfielder Frank Olijve found space for a shot from a few yards out but SAFC goalkeeper Diego Restrepo got a piece of it. Ben Newnam’s attempted clearance bounced back off fellow defender Stephen McCarthy but Restrepo managed to catch the ball and end the nervy passage of play.
SAFC had a few more chances to double their lead in the 69th minute but again failed to capitalize and grab an insurance goal. Forward Cesar Elizondo played a one-two with Forbes and was thwarted by a last-second tackle, then the ball fell to midfielder Michael Reed whose shot was saved by Lyon.
Despite SAFC holding firm and retaining their lead until the full-time whistle on July 29 against Phoenix Rising FC, their recent trend of conceding late equalizers reared its ugly head again in the third minute of stoppage time at the end of the match.
SAFC midfielder Michael Reed fouled Orange County midfielder Gustavo Villalobos in the box (though seemingly only slightly) during a free kick, and the referee pointed to the spot. Forward Jerry Van Ewijk stepped up and put the ball past Restrepo to punch SAFC in the gut at the eleventh hour…yet again.
“We’ve seen some decisions that could have gone either way,” said SAFC Head Coach Darren Powell. “Over the last couple of weeks, several incidents during the course of the game haven’t gone in our direction.”
It will frustrate anybody and everybody who roots for SAFC that they just can’t seem to see out leads as of late, but especially on Saturday, they had chances and didn’t capitalize and it came back to haunt them again.
SAFC still gained ground on Real Monarchs SLC in the USL Western Conference standings. Energy FC beat the top-of-the-table side 2-0, though SAFC failed to take full advantage of the stumble.
SAFC will have their work cut out for them on Aug. 12 away to Reno 1868 FC, who have the best offense in the league. Even SAFC’s sturdy defense should be worried about more than just another late equalizer.
SAFC Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Diego Restrepo; Ben Newnam, Sebastien Ibeagha, Stephen McCarthy, Greg Cochrane; Michael Reed(c); Kris Tyrpak (Cesar Elizondo 62’), Rafa Castillo, Mark O’Ojong (Pecka 62’), Billy Forbes; Akwafei Ajeakwa (Victor Araujo 84’)
Substitutes not used: Johnston, Hedrick, Rodriguez, Chin
SAFC Discipline: Rafa Castillo (yellow card, 27th minute – third of the season), Sebastien Ibeagha (yellow card, 56th minute – fifth of the season), Diego Restrepo (yellow card, 77th minute – first of the season)