Image: Tom Smedes / Reno 1868 FC
San Antonio FC lost 2-0 on the road to Reno 1868 FC late Saturday night in a matchup of the United Soccer League’s best defense and offense. It was only San Antonio’s second loss of the season.
Coming into the match, hosts Reno had notched 49 goals, the most in the USL and five more than Real Monarchs SLC. On the opposite side, SAFC’s league-best defense had only conceded 11 goals, seven better than the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Something had to give.
“I thought we created a few good openings that we didn’t connect,” said SAFC Head Coach Darren Powell. “Our guys were chasing the game and gave everything, heart and soul, to try and get back in it.”
SAFC had a solid chance off a counter attack in the 17th minute orchestrated by midfielder Kris Tyrpak. After a clever turn, Tyrpak ran into space and fed the ball to forward Victor Araujo running up the right. Araujo cut the ball back for Tyrpak in the center of the box but Tyrpak couldn’t connect and the chance crumbled.
Reno cracked the SAFC defense in the 25th minute off a goalmouth scramble. Following a corner, the ball pinged around the six-yard box a few times before Reno midfielder Luis Felipe Fernandes stabbed it home past the SAFC defense.
SAFC stepped up their attacking for the rest of the half, with Reno finding chances on occasion, but neither side was able to light up the scoreboard again before halftime.
SAFC came out hungry in the second half and were awarded a free kick in the 48th minute for a handball, though replays showed the infringement may have been committed inside the 18-yard box. Midfielder Billy Forbes tried to catch the Reno defense off guard with his quick free kick but it was curled wide.
Reno had been pressuring SAFC goalkeeper Diego Restrepo all night whenever the ball found his feet and finally got their reward in the 70th minute. Forward Brian Brown closed in on Restrepo and intercepted his pass out of the back, then rounded the goalkeeper and easily slid the ball into an open net.
After doing so only once in the first 18 matches of the season, SAFC has now conceded multiple goals in two of their last three matches. Doing so against the league’s two best offenses mitigates that slightly, but it’s still going to frustrate a team which has prided itself on defense this season.
SAFC was handed a lifeline in the 82nd minute after Fernandes brought forward Cesar Elizondo down in the box. When Forbes took the penalty kick two minutes later though, he sent it too high and off the crossbar. SAFC had no better chance than that all night.
“We kind of shot ourselves in the foot on both goals,” said SAFC defender Ben Newnam. “We made mistakes and we just need to start putting away our opportunities.”
One area where SAFC excelled on Saturday was picking up yellow cards, receiving seven from referee Malik Badawi. Defender Ben Newnam’s yellow card means he will be suspended for SAFC’s next match, while multiple players could find themselves on the USL Discipline Report for being one away from a suspension.
SAFC next faces their regional rival Oklahoma City Energy FC away on Aug. 19. SAFC and Energy FC played to a scoreless draw in their previous meeting at Taft Stadium on June 10, and SAFC has yet to beat OKC in the first five meetings between the two clubs since SAFC was founded prior to the 2016 season.
SAFC Starting XI (4-1-4-1): Diego Restrepo; Ben Newnam, Sebastien Ibeagha, Stephen McCarthy, Greg Cochrane; Pecka (Cesar Elizondo 46’); Kris Tyrpak, Rafa Castillo (Maxi Rodriguez 41’), Mark O’Ojong, Billy Forbes; Victor Araujo (Akwafei Ajeakwa 72′)
Substitutes not used: Johnston, Hedrick, Reed, Chin
SAFC Discipline: Sebastien Ibeagha (yellow card, 23rd minute – sixth of the season), Ben Newnam (yellow card, 59th minute – fifth of the season), Kris Tyrpak (yellow card, 59th minute – fourth of the season), Maxi Rodriguez (yellow card, 67th minute – second of the season), Cesar Elizondo (yellow card, 79th minute – fourth of the season), Mark O’Ojong (yellow card, 80th minute – fourth of the season), Akwafei Ajeakwa (yellow card, 90th minute – second of the season)