Image: Jesus Miguel Garcia, Two Ten Soccer

Midfielders Kris Tyrpak and Mikey Lopez assisted each other to negate an early Saint Louis FC goal, handing SAFC a 2-1 win in their 2018 home opener on Saturday night at Toyota Field. The win negates a 2-1 loss away to Sacramento Republic FC on March 17 in SAFC’s first match of the season.

“It’s like (Tyrpak and I) are teenagers again,” Lopez said of his and Tyrpak’s connection, first forged in the ranks of Texas youth soccer years ago. “It feels really cool playing with him again and playing with a lot of guys that I played with growing up.”

SAFC Head Coach Darren Powell made a few changes to the lineup for the team’s second match. Mike Seth came in for the injured Greg Cochrane, who missed only his second USL match in SAFC’s history, and Connor Presley replaced Omar Gordon on the right wing. Powell also moved his central midfielders around and switched formations for something slightly more attacking.

Like the week before though, SAFC was under pressure early, and this time they quickly caved, conceding at the beginning of the first half rather than the end. Saint Louis FC midfielder Austin Martz found space on the right and sent in a cross which forward Kyle Greig slightly redirected into the bottom left corner with his head.

Once SAFC got a real sniff of the ball, they knew the task ahead of them and began to create chances. They finally followed through and found their equalizer in the 22nd minute as Presley sent a cross in from the right, then Tyrpak and Lopez did the rest. Lopez has marked each of his matches in an SAFC shirt so far with a goal.

After halftime, SAFC came out on the front foot for the first time this season. They made that impetus count in the 60th minute as Lopez returned the favor from earlier in the match, crossing in from the right for Tyrpak to fruitfully head goalwards.

In a reverse of SAFC’s season opener, they were on the back foot for the last half hour, seeing their newer and injury-struck defense tested. However, the teamwide defensive commitment saw the result through for SAFC.

“I’m very proud of our players, the way they found a way to win the game tonight,” Powell said. “They never gave up and kept their work ethic to the final whistle and cleared balls out…and maybe even created another chance, another opportunity for us.”

Though it’s early in the season, SAFC currently leads the USL in at least one stat: yellow cards, with eight so far. Goalkeeper Diego Restrepo and midfielders Pecka and Lopez have already received two apiece. Powell puts this down to dedication to winning the ball, though good intent will do little to change referees’ minds.

Coupled with some questionable calls which went SAFC’s way and a stunning no-goal call in another USL match, it’s difficult to argue USL refereeing has gotten any better.

With their first three points of the season under their belt, SAFC will next travel to face Los Angeles Galaxy II on March 31. In both of SAFC’s previous seasons, they’ve managed to draw 1-1 and bring a point home in this fixture, and given the start to SAFC’s 2018 season, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if they did so yet again – which is fine, as Powell and others often say “every point is valuable.”

Posted by J. Check

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