Image: Darren Abate, USL
San Antonio FC and Fresno FC met for the second time in three matches, this time at Toyota Field and with SAFC winning 2-1.
The two sides met for the first time ever just 13 days ago in Fresno, where they played to a scoreless draw despite Fresno creating the majority of the chances. With six saves and a shutout, SAFC goalkeeper Diego Restrepo was named to the USL Team of the Week for his performance in that match.
“Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve been evolving,” said SAFC Head Coach Darren Powell. “As you get to know each other and the more you play with each other, the more familiar you are with one other, (things) become a little more fluid and I think you saw that tonight.”
Forward Ever Guzman and midfielder Connor Presley were ruled out of the match due to injuries sustained in SAFC’s 3-1 win away to Las Vegas Lights FC on April 27. Taking their places were forward Alex Bruce and midfielder Omar Gordon, both of whom made their first competitive appearances at Toyota Field in 2018. It was also the first start of Bruce’s professional career, and his family was on hand as always to support him.
The visitors exerted pressure on SAFC early on and nearly opened the scoring in just the fourth minute. Forward Danny Barrera lofted a ball into the 18-yard box where it was headed on target by midfielder Pedro Ribeiro, but Restrepo palmed the ball off the line, picking up where he left off two weeks ago.
SAFC began to find a foothold in the match and snatched the lead in the 20th minute. Defender Darnell King rampaged up the right flank and swung in a cross that was placed and weighted just right for Bruce to tap in at the far post, marking his first professional start with a goal. It was also the second time this season (and in a row) that SAFC snatched the opening goal in a match.
“I’ve been playing for this moment since I was a little kid,” Bruce said. “I thank the coaches for putting their trust in me and I just need to do the job.”
SAFC found multiple opportunities to double their lead early in the second half through the likes of Gordon and fellow midfielder Sonny Guadarrama, but each went begging.
SAFC may have felt aggrieved at those missed chances as Fresno equalized in the 63rd minute. Goalkeeper Kyle Reynish booted the ball downfield where forward Rodolfo controlled it in the box and backheeled for midfielder Jemal Johnson to rush onto it and place it past Restrepo.
SAFC regained the lead just four minutes later though as Guadarrama drove forward and blasted a shot which deflected off the frame of the goal and Reynish before trickling in.
Despite the goals flowing for both sides tonight – unlike two weeks ago – it was still largely the Restrepo Show as the SAFC shotstopper continued to build a highlight reel in the process of keeping SAFC’s lead intact. Restrepo made four saves, two punches, two clearances and one catch Saturday night to keep all three points in SAFC’s hands and earn recognition as the Man of the Match.
“I’m trying to get my form from last year,” Restrepo said. “It took me a bit in the beginning, but I think finally it’s coming along.
SAFC now has two wins in a row heading into the first South Texas Derby of the season away to Rio Grande Valley FC on May 12. The only meeting between the two sides at RGVFC’s HEB Park ended in a 1-0 win for SAFC in the 2017 season opener, with former SAFC midfielder Billy Forbes scoring the lone goal.