Image: Darren Abate, USL
San Antonio FC defeated Rio Grande Valley FC 3-1 Saturday night at Toyota Field in the final match of the regular season for both. SAFC won the season series with their local rivals with two wins out of three.
The sides last met just three weeks previously, also in San Antonio. RGVFC came out with the lone goal, but horrendous refereeing was what stuck in most people’s minds that night.
“Even though they were out (of the playoff picture), they were fighting for pride, especially against us – they never want to lose to us,” said SAFC defender Greg Cochrane. “I think it was a really good last game to have us ready for the playoffs.”
After falling to RGVFC a few weeks ago, SAFC came prepared Saturday night, attacking early and often. Their best early chance came in the 13th minute as a ball found midfielder Cesar Elizondo in the middle of the box and some clever juggling created space for a shot, but RGVFC goalkeeper Calle Brown got behind it.
SAFC continued to throw things at RGVFC and were gifted the opening goal by a defensive mix-up in the 29th minute. A long ball forward was headed back toward Brown, who saved the ball from going over the endline for a corner – allowing SAFC midfielder Billy Forbes to take it, dribble along the line and tap the ball in at point-blank range.
The goal was Forbes’ tenth of the season for SAFC and set a club record for total goals. This comes just four days after Forbes set the record for assists as well when he set up forward Ever Guzman’s goal against Portland Timbers 2.
Speaking of Guzman, he doubled SAFC’s lead in the 34th minute and scored for the third match running. Pecka played a ball up the right for midfield partner Owayne Gordon, who wasted no time sliding it horizontally into the box where Guzman stabbed it home.
RGVFC came out of the locker room after halftime with a renewed desire though, leading to them cutting SAFC’s lead in half within a minute of the restart. SAFC couldn’t completely clear the early attack and RGVFC captain and midfielder Eric Bird volleyed the ball home from the top of the box.
SAFC regained their two-goal lead in the 59th minute though through a quickly-sprung attack. Forbes chased a ball up the left side and after dribbling inside, he found a sliver of space to play the ball to the unmarked Guzman, who comfortably redirected the ball into the net.
RGVFC would have even more wind taken out of their sails in the 73rd minute as midfielder Jose Escalante was given a straight red card for a dangerous challenge on Gordon. Ahead in terms of manpower and goals, SAFC was able to coast to victory to close out their regular season in style.
“Everybody in that locker room that’s been there this year has worked extremely hard to put this team in the position that we’re in,” said SAFC Head Coach Darren Powell. “Throughout the season, we’ve had some very good performances here and on the road.”
The result secured second place in the United Soccer League Western Conference for SAFC. They’ll host their first USL playoff match on Oct. 21, though their opponent still hasn’t been determined yet.
SAFC Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Diego Restrepo; Mark O’Ojong, Sebastien Ibeagha(c), Stephen McCarthy. Greg Cochrane; Ryan Roushandel (Maxi Rodriguez 67’), Pecka (Ben Newnam 88’); Owayne Gordon, Cesar Elizondo, Billy Forbes; Ever Guzman (Connor Presley 88’)
Substitutes not used: Johnston, Hedrick, Tyrpak, Seth
SAFC Discipline: N/A