Image: Darren Abate, USL
Shaking off some early rust from a 10-day break between matches, San Antonio FC defeated Sacramento Republic FC 1-0 on Saturday night at Toyota Field with a resolute defensive display.
“We can’t be prouder of the guys,” said SAFC Head Coach Darren Powell. “We did lots of defending, people were putting bodies on the line throughout the team to limit the quality of their chances.”
SAFC continued to use the 3-4-3 formation that has rejuvenated their season in recent weeks, but the personnel deployed wasn’t quite the same. Defenders Darnell King and Ryan Roushandel as well as midfielder Pecka did not start for SAFC for the first time in USL play this season. King was serving a suspension for yellow card accumulation, while Roushandel started on the bench and Pecka was in neither the matchday squad nor on the injury report.
Conversely, midfielder Ethan Bryant and defender Cyprian Hedrick got their first USL action of the season right from minute one, while midfielder Maxi Rodriguez made his first USL start of the season. However, all three had factored significantly into SAFC’s Lamar Hunt US Open Cup run, which ended on June 6 with a 1-0 loss at home to FC Dallas.
The contest was end-to-end from the beginning, seeing a slew of chances on either end. Both goalkeepers, SAFC’s Diego Restrepo and Sacramento’s Josh Cohen, pulled off some impressive saves to keep their sides from conceding first.
“It was one of my best times defending here as a team since I’ve been here a year and a half,” Restrepo said of the team’s performance as a whole. “We all came out, we all performed and we all put the team first and grinded it out, so it was awesome. Props to the guys, they did a heck of a job to clear those balls – it wasn’t pretty, but they were able to do it.”
It looked like either side could open the scoring, but SAFC was ultiamtely the one to do so. A quick counter in the 43rd minute saw Bryant find space and play the ball forward to Cesar Elizondo, who advanced and fired past an onrushing Cohen, getting his first goal of 2018 and becoming the second player, after midfielder Rafa Castillo, to score in all three seasons for SAFC.
Sacramento had over two-thirds of possession in the first half, but it didn’t quite feel like they dominated SAFC. That changed in the second half as Sacramento upped their possession and pressure. SAFC rarely got out of their own half as Restrepo and just about every SAFC player in front of him closed down chances and put their bodies on the line, frustrating Sacramento to the bitter end.
“We did what we needed to do to get the win and the shutout, and that’s all that really matters,” said SAFC defender Cyprian Hedrick. “It took us a couple of minutes to get into the game, but once we got in, it was pretty hard to break us down.”
Saturday was the first time SAFC managed a shutout win in USL play in 2018. They had previously won four matches but conceded in each, and had kept three shutouts but also failed to score themselves in those matches, so to combine the two and do so with such a gritty performance will put a feather in the team’s cap as they build momentum going forward.
SAFC will next host Reno 1868 FC on June 23, the final of four straight matches in all competitions SAFC has hosted. Reno was their last destination for an away match, being dealt a 2-1 defeat on May 26.