Image: Darren Abate, USL
San Antonio FC scored a late penalty kick to defeat Tulsa Roughnecks FC 2-1 on Saturday night at Toyota Field in the first ever playoff match for both clubs.
Saturday’s match became a bit more important for SAFC after first-seeded Real Monarchs SLC was knocked out of the United Soccer League playoffs on Friday night. Real lost in penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw with Sacramento Republic FC – who, coincidentally, was the first seed but lost in penalty kicks in the first round of the 2016 playoffs.
“We knew if we just kept going at them, taking shots and stuff, one was going to break,” said SAFC defender Greg Cochrane. “Once we got that first one, we felt good, we were confident the second one was going to come.”
SAFC began confidently and managed the first serious chance in just the third minute. Cochrane dribbled in from the left side and launched a shot toward goal, forcing Tulsa goalkeeper Fabian Cerda into a save.
Despite SAFC controlling the early stages though, it was Tulsa who scored first. SAFC repelled a free kick before the ball fell to Tulsa midfielder Paris Gee, whose blasted shot beat goalkeeper Diego Restrepo to the top right corner.
SAFC stepped up after going down, coming close to equalizing on multiple occasions. Midfielders Billy Forbes and Cesar Elizondo hit the crossbar and side netting, respectively, within 10 minutes before halftime. SAFC also had a goal disallowed for a foul in the box.
SAFC wasn’t doing much wrong and continued to push and create chances, and they found their reward in the 61st minute, from a similar position and play to the one Tulsa scored on earlier. A cross into the box was half-cleared and midfielder Owayne Gordon sent a low shot toward goal, which deflected off of Elizondo and past Cerda.
“(Trailing by a goal) is a little bit of pressure, but I think we were trusting in what we were doing,” Elizondo said. “We have a great team, we trust each other and in tough moments like today, I know we can get the job done.”
SAFC got even more aggressive in the minutes that followed, looking to complete the turnaround, but Tulsa held firm and soon regained a foothold in the match.
SAFC did finally grab the go-ahead goal just in time though. A late counter led to Billy Forbes drawing a penalty kick in stoppage time. Forward Ever Guzman, who had scored four goals in the last three matches for SAFC, stepped up and beat Cerda to send SAFC on and allow their faithful fans to breathe a sigh of relief.
“All around, everybody tonight fought to the final whistle,” said SAFC Head Coach Darren Powell. “We know we’re going to be in a game and get opportunities, and then it’s just a matter of if we can execute in those moments.”
SAFC will host their next playoff match in a week’s time, against Oklahoma City Energy FC, who scored the only goal to upset Reno 1868 FC in Nevada on Saturday night. Energy FC remains the one team in the USL Western Conference which SAFC hasn’t beaten, and the sides have drawn five of the six times they’ve met.
SAFC Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Diego Restrepo; Mark O’Ojong, Sebastien Ibeagha(c), Stephen McCarthy. Greg Cochrane; Ryan Roushandel, Pecka; Owayne Gordon (Kris Tyrpak 77’), Cesar Elizondo (Michael Reed 88’), Billy Forbes; Ever Guzman
Substitutes not used: Johnston, Hedrick, Castillo, Presley, Seth
SAFC Discipline: Stephen McCarthy (yellow card, 55th minute)