Image: Darren Abate, USL
San Antonio FC lost to Oklahoma City Energy FC 4-1 on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw on Saturday night at Toyota Field in the United Soccer League Western Conference semifinals.
It was the second week in a row SAFC hosted an Oklahoma team in the USL playoffs, having come from behind to beat Tulsa Roughnecks FC on Oct. 21 in the quarterfinals.
Unfortunately for the home side, lightning did not strike twice. On top of that, the two sides kept a tradition going, having now drawn six of seven matches against each other all-time.
“I’m bitterly disappointed for all the players in that locker room,” said SAFC Head Coach Darren Powell. “A lot of work over several months and it comes down to penalty kicks…tonight just wasn’t meant to be.”
Despite OKC testing SAFC in the early stages, it was the home side who opened the scoring, exactly seven minutes in. Forward Cesar Elizondo took the ball and blasted a shot from a central position about 25 yards from goal. A significant deflection wrong-footed OKC goalkeeper CJ Cochran as the ball trickled in to give SAFC the advantage.
Although trailing at halftime, OKC had no shortage of chances in the first half, outshooting SAFC 11-3 (though the visitors only managed three on target). In the early stages, SAFC dealt with their attacks comfortably, but it looked nervier as the first half wore on.
Energy FC picked up after halftime where they left off, testing SAFC’s defense a couple of times in the early stages of the second half. SAFC goalkeeper Diego Restrepo was forced into multiple important saves within minutes of picking the game up again.
As they had all season though, SAFC’s defense managed to keep goals at bay one way or another. It wasn’t always pretty, but they got the job done by whatever means necessary.
That changed in the 85th minute as Energy FC’s forward line linked up to draw the sides level. Jose Angulo crossed the ball in from the left and Wojciech Wojcik redirected it with his head and beyond Restrepo’s outstretched hand.
As the rest of regular and extra time came and went, neither side sat back. It surprised few though that neither could find a winning goal, and the dreaded penalty kick shootout reared its ugly head again.
SAFC had lost two shootouts earlier in the season: on May 31 against Tulsa Roughnecks FC in the US Open Cup and on July 8 against Club Santos Laguna in a friendly. Despite falling short both times, they pushed both shootouts into extra rounds.
It didn’t go quite so well for SAFC on Saturday as OKC scored all four penalty kicks they took before SAFC could even take four. Forward Ever Guzman, who converted a week earlier to give SAFC a stoppage-time winner against Tulsa, saw Cochran save his shot this time, then midfielder Michael Reed missed on SAFC’s third attempt.
“Hearts are broken for the club, the organization, the fans – everybody,” said SAFC midfielder Ryan Roushandel. “(A PK shootout) is the cruelest way to end a game in sports.”
One silver lining for SAFC was the scorer of their second PK attempt: midfielder Rafa Castillo. The San Antonio soccer legend last played Aug. 12 at Reno 1868 FC, going off with an injury in the 41st minute that night, then came on for the final 20 minutes Saturday. If nothing else, it gave SAFC fans something extra to cheer about.
Although it hurts right now, SAFC can be proud of the improvement they showed in their second season – it’s amazing what you can do when you have a proper offseason to set your team up. There’s still room to grow, but 2017 was a good year for the club on and off the field. As the saying goes though, the third time’s the charm…
SAFC Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Diego Restrepo; Mark O’Ojong, Sebastien Ibeagha(c), Stephen McCarthy. Greg Cochrane; Ryan Roushandel (Michael Reed 66’), Pecka; Owayne Gordon, Cesar Elizondo (Rafa Castillo 100’), Billy Forbes; Ever Guzman
Substitutes not used: Johnston, Hedrick, Presley, Tyrpak, Seth
SAFC Penalty Kicks: Guzman – saved, Castillo – scored, Reed – saved
SAFC Discipline: Owayne Gordon (yellow card, 51st minute), Cesar Elizondo (yellow card, 97th minute), Rafa Castillo (yellow card,112th minute)