Image: Darren Abate, USL
San Antonio FC conceded the only goal in a match against regional rival Rio Grande Valley FC on Saturday night at Toyota Field, fighting to the end despite immense adversity. This was the first time all season SAFC has lost consecutive matches.
The match was SAFC’s first at home in exactly a month after going on a four-match away run in which they grabbed seven points and their first United Soccer League playoff berth. SAFC’s renowned defense was coming off its worst display ever though, a 5-2 loss to Swope Park Rangers on Sept. 17.
“Every game is going to be a step up – it’s going to escalate and escalate and escalate and that’s what you want in a derby match,” said SAFC midfielder Kris Tyrpak. “If we come out and play the way we played this game every single game the rest of the season, I think we’ll be sitting happy at the end of it.”
Understandably for a derby, both sides came out with ambition and tested the other early. SAFC came away with the first serious chance in the 12th minute as Tyrpak found space on the right and lofted the ball across the face of goal, but forward Ever Guzman wasn’t able to redirect it from a few yards out.
Five minutes later, RGVFC managed to make something out of seemingly nothing and opened the scoring, despite a blatant handball by defender Justin Bilyeu in the buildup. The ball was brought down questionably and played into the path of onrushing midfielder Jose Escalante, whose speculative cross from the left side of the box managed to find the top right corner for the match’s only goal.
In the 20th minute, things went from bad to worse for SAFC. Escalante yanked down defender Ben Newnam from behind, prompting Newnam to swing a foot at the offender’s head and be promptly sent off. In addition to Newnam, SAFC will also be without Stephen McCarthy on the backline next week for yellow card accumulation.
RGVFC, ahead in score and squad, applied some pressure in the immediate aftermath, but SAFC took the reins and almost never looked back for the rest of the match.
While SAFC fans hate RGVFC, who have now won four of the six matches between the clubs, the main villain in the eyes of the fans Saturday night was referee Michael Radchuk, who made a number of questionable calls and missed some rather obvious ones against both sides.
SAFC not only dictated the tempo of the match but put in perhaps one of their most spirited performances, regardless of everything that went against them.
“I can’t fault the effort of our players for the 70 minutes in adversity,” said SAFC Head Coach Darren Powell. “The 10 players that were there worked extremely hard against 11 and probably deserved more than they got.”
SAFC did manage to win in one way Saturday, raising $100,477.13 for the victims of Hurricane Harvey and the effort to help southeastern Texas rebuild.
SAFC will hit the road for the last time in the regular season in a week’s time to face a Tulsa Roughnecks FC team which, had the playoffs begun before the match Saturday, would’ve been SAFC’s opponent in the first round.
SAFC Starting XI (4-1-4-1): Diego Restrepo; Ben Newnam, Sebastien Ibeagha, Stephen McCarthy, Greg Cochrane; Pecka (Ryan Roushandel 63’); Kris Tyrpak (Mike Seth 81’), Michael Reed(c), Cesar Elizondo, Billy Forbes; Ever Guzman (Owayne Gordon 70’)
Substitutes not used: Johnston, Rodriguez, Presley, Vega,
SAFC Discipline: Ben Newnam (red card, 20th minute – first of the season), Stephen McCarthy (yellow card, 42nd minute – ninth of the season), Pecka (yellow card, 45th+ minute – fourth of the season)