Image: Rio Grande Valley FC
In the first edition of the South Texas Derby for 2018, San Antonio FC and Rio Grande Valley FC played to a scoreless but not wholly uneventful draw at H-E-B Park in Edinburg on Saturday night.
Saturday’s stalemate was the second all time in the series, the first coming at Toyota Field in May 2016 in the second ever meeting between the two clubs, also scoreless but with RGVFC having the more positive showing. RGVFC still holds the edge in the series with four wins to SAFC’s two.
For the first time in 2018, SAFC used a familiar lineup and did so in consecutive matches no less. Despite the signing of forward Kyle Murphy, Alex Bruce retained his spot as the target forward.
RGVFC applied the pressure early and often in the first half. Coming up big in recent weeks, SAFC goalkeeper Diego Restrepo again justified his starting spot repeatedly, making his first big save in the ninth minute after a defensive miscue gifted RGVFC midfielder Jesus Enriquez a chance.
RGVFC came closest to scoring directly from a free kick as midfielder Todd Wharton’s set piece from the left flank nearly snuck into the top right corner, but Restrepo managed to tip the strike over.
SAFC made a couple forays forward and were even denied a penalty roughly half an hour in as midfielder Jose Escalante dribbled into the box and appeared to be brought down. The referee didn’t see it that way, however, and you’d be hard-pressed to think of any opportunities in the first half where you were nearly as close to the edge of your seat as that moment.
The gap between the two teams closed slightly in the second half, but it seemed more a result of RGVFC falling off than SAFC catching up. The visitors continued to lack precision in the final third while Restrepo & Co. worked to preserve the point in their own half.
That SAFC’s lone offensive highlight of the second half was a skillful run by Escalante serves as an indicator of how lackluster their performance was going forward.
While Restrepo again came up big for SAFC, it should raise some concern that he continues to be the standout performer. While the other ten players on the field compound Restrepo’s heroics with decent performances themselves in some matches, Saturday didn’t feel like one of those.
SAFC will take solace from grabbing their third clean sheet of the season, all coming on the road, but they’ve been held scoreless themselves in each of those matches as well.
Having traveled south for the derby this weekend, SAFC faces another intrastate trip in just a few days, this time heading north. On Wednesday, they’ll begin their 2018 US Open Cup run away to Midland-Odessa Sockers FC, who advanced from the first round with a 3-0 win over the Lakeland Tropics. Sockers FC was the National Premier Soccer League runner-up in 2017 and began their 2018 season Saturday night with a 1-0 win away to FC Brownsville.