San Antonio FC rallied in the second half to defeat Texas rival Rio Grande Valley FC 3-1 on Wednesday night at H-E-B Park, snapping a four-match losing streak.
“We went down early but fought back in the second half to get the win, and that’s a great feeling,” said SAFC midfielder Connor Presley. “The fact that it’s a derby match makes it even better to get the win.”
Matt Cardone retained his spot in goal, playing consecutive competitive matches for the first time in 2018, though Diego Restrepo was out injured rather than just on the bench. Defender Stephen McCarthy returned to the lineup and Charlie Ward was the lone defensive midfielder in a slight formation change.
Yet again, SAFC went behind early, this time in just the third minute. Midfielder Chuy Enriquez dribbled into the center of the box and fired a shot into the bottom right corner past Cardone to put the hosts on top and continue what has been a rough defensive stretch for SAFC.
SAFC still had the upper hand in many ways in the first half – possession, passing, shots, etc – but their efforts failed to give them the upper hand in the most basic yet important stat: goals. They really began to turn up the pressure in the waning stages of the first half, a bit earlier than their second-half surge in Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Swope Park Rangers.
Just four minutes after halftime, SAFC made their attacking efforts count to level the match. Recently-acquired midfielder Lance Laing drove up the left side of the 18-yard box and played a ball into the center where Presley placed a first-time shot in the bottom left corner for his first professional goal.
SAFC kept pushing and took the lead in the 62nd minute with good ball movement setting up a great finish. After a sequence of neat, quick passes, Laing got on the scoresheet himself as he received the ball in the box and curled it inside the far post. Including an assist on Presley’s goal 12 minutes earlier, Laing tallied his first start, goal and assist for SAFC in Wednesday’s match.
“(Winning) was necessary,” Laing said after the match. “We weren’t happy with the position we were in and we like to control our own destiny, and getting a win today helps us do that. I’m still trying to get used to the way this team plays and get settled into the team (but) tonight was great because I got a goal and an assist.”
As RGVFC increased their pressure, they left themselves vulnerable in defense, and SAFC capitalized in the 81st minute. Midfielder Sonny Guadarrama played a long ball up to forward Ever Guzman, who chipped over onrushing goalkeeper Nicolas Corti to double SAFC’s lead. The goal was Guzman’s team-leading sixth in USL play.
SAFC will be relieved to have snapped a four-match losing streak in which they had rarely looked promising in the race for a playoff place. Wednesday’s win pushed them back up in the standings slightly, though they still sit just below the playoff line for now.
“This feels great,” said Charlie Ward, current SAFC and former RGVFC midfielder. “Coming out in the second half and getting three goals shows the spirit of this team, and it’s on to the next one now. We want to make a run out of this, but for now it feels good to get a win against my old team.
“This is a team that let me go because they didn’t think I was good enough, so to come back here and win feels good. At the same time, I started my career here and the fans were always good to me.”
Despite the midweek match, SAFC has a bit more time than usual to recover as they take on Real Monarchs SLC on Monday night. Despite topping the USL Western Conference as they have for most of the last two season, Real did leave SAFC with a 4-2 loss in July in what ended up being the first of four consecutive wins for SAFC, and the identical fixture from 2017 saw SAFC turn the match around late and come away with a 2-1 win.