Image: Real Monarchs SLC
San Antonio FC won 2-1 away to Real Monarchs SLC on Saturday night in the second battle between the top two teams in the United Soccer League Western Conference this season.
The two sides previously met at Toyota Field on July 22 in a match which SAFC showed better in, but a penalty kick and late defensive lapse allowed Real to escape with a point.
“It was a very tight game from the first minute to the last,” SAFC Head Coach Darren Powell said. “I’m very proud of our players for their performance tonight, their determination and desire to keep on going.”
Real felt out SAFC’s defense early but the visitors turned that around to find some chances on the break. The first was a lightning-fast counter attack in the seventh minute as forward Omar Gordon held the ball up and played it through for midfielder Billy Forbes to run onto, but the cross in from the left was scrambled away by the Real defense. A very similar play occurred in the 20th minute, with Forbes making almost the exact same run, but his horizontal pass to Gordon that time was swept up as well.
Real managed to come close on a few occasions as well though, such as off a free kick at the top of the box in the 29th minute. Midfielder Sebastian Saucedo lifted the ball over the wall and toward the top left corner, but SAFC goalkeeper Diego Restrepo stretched out to make a stellar save and parry away for a corner.
Saucedo did open the scoring in the 55th minute though after keeping a ball in play near the sideline and navigating around SAFC defender Ben Newnam. With Saucedo cutting inside, SAFC’s defense couldn’t shut him down before he fired a shot across goal into the bottom right corner to hand Real the advantage.
SAFC stepped up their aggression after conceding and came close on a number of occasions, but Real held onto their lead and looked to be distancing themselves even more in the USL West standings.
That was until SAFC capitalized off of late set pieces to turn the match on its head. First came an own goal in the 89th minute as SAFC midfielder Michael Reed lofted a free kick into the box where Real defender Taylor Peay leaped into the air to challenge for the ball but ended up redirecting it into his own net.
A draw away to the best team in the USL would have been a satisfactory result for SAFC, but with time still on the clock, they didn’t settle. In the third minute of stoppage time, Reed again sent a free kick into the box and this time it was met solidly by SAFC defender Stephen McCarthy, who headed it into the ground and inside the far post to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. The late match-winner was McCarthy’s first goal of the season – without a doubt, a well-timed one.
“It’s a dog fight in the box,” Reed said. “The ball got into the right areas and our guys were brave enough to attack it and finish.”
Given the number of times SAFC has been burned by late equalizers over the last few months, it will please them and their fans that late scores went in their favor for a change. With one of those unfortunate late equalizers coming against Real earlier this season, it likely tastes even sweeter.
Despite the sunshiney result, there are some clouds in the distance for SAFC. Defender Sebastien Ibeagha, who has played every minute of SAFC’s 2017 USL season so far, as well as midfielder Kris Tyrpak and forward Cesar Elizondo will all sit out SAFC’s Sept. 9 match at LA Galaxy II for yellow card accumulation.
SAFC Starting XI (4-4-2): Diego Restrepo; Ben Newnam (Ryan Roushandel 87’), Stephen McCarthy, Sebastien Ibeagha, Greg Cochrane; Kris Tyrpak (Ever Guzman 73’), Michael Reed(c), Pecka, Billy Forbes (Mike Seth 61’); Cesar Elizondo, Owayne Gordon
Substitutes not used: Johnston, Hedrick, O’Ojong, Presley
SAFC Discipline: Cesar Elizondo (yellow card, 50th minute – fifth of the season), Kris Tyrpak (yellow card, 58th minute – fifth of the season), Sebastien Ibeagha (yellow card, 86th minute – seventh of the season), Pecka (yellow card, 90th minute – second of the season)