Image: Real Monarchs SLC
San Antonio FC won 2-1 away to Real Monarchs SLC, the top team in the USL Western Conference, on Monday night. It was Real’s first loss at Zions Bank Stadium, which opened for the 2018 season.
“We spoke about a few things before the game and needed to improve on both sides of the ball, and tonight I think we achieved that goal,” said SAFC Head Coach Darren Powell. “Earning points away in this league is very valuable, and especially against a team who has gone undefeated on this field.”
SAFC trotted out a 4-2-3-1 formation but shifted some personnel around. Darnell King slid over to central defense while Mike Seth, versatile defender-forward, took King’s normal place on the right. Matt Cardone started his third consecutive match in goal for SAFC, the first time he’s had such a run since April 2017.
Real started on the front foot and tested SAFC for the first portion of the match but failed to capitalize. SAFC found their footing and created a few chances around the half-hour mark, capitalizing in the 31st minute as forward Ever Guzman headed in from midfielder Lance Laing’s corner. With the goal, Guzman tied midfielder Rafa Castillo as SAFC’s all-time leading scorer.
Real began stepping up the pressure again, particularly after halftime, and earned their first goal of the match off a corner as well in the 64th minute. Midfielder Justin Portillo swung the set piece in and defender Konrad Plewa simply redirected it in from point-blank range.
Just two minutes later though, SAFC regained their lead and scored the decisive goal as midfielder Omar Gordon connected with his Jamaican compatriot Laing, who placed the ball in the top left corner of the net. Joining SAFC recently and appearing in just the last three matches, Laing already has two goals and as many assists with SAFC.
Both sides had opportunities to run up the scoreline but couldn’t crack their opponent’s defense yet again, handing SAFC all three points. Despite Real’s stellar record since the start of 2017, SAFC has won three matches and drawn another against them in that time.
“It was a real team effort to grind out the win against the league leaders,” Cardone said. “They’re a great team but we knew coming in that this was a result that we needed, and we stuck together and earned the three points.”
SAFC has now put together consecutive wins after losing four straight and currently sits in the eighth and final playoff spot for the USL West. They next face Phoenix Rising FC at home on Saturday, just 17 days after Phoenix handed SAFC their worst-ever loss, 4-0 at Phoenix’s self-named soccer complex on Aug. 22.