Image: Darren Abate, USL
San Antonio FC managed to outscore offensive powerhouse Phoenix Rising FC 3-2 on Saturday night at Toyota Field. SAFC continued their streaky nature and is now on a three-match winning streak with six matches left in the USL regular season.
“Between the different runs that we’ve had during the course of the year, the players have self-belief, a great work ethic and they come in every single day to make sure that we try and improve as a group,” said SAFC Head Coach Darren Powell. “Tonight we came off victorious, but we know as a group we can improve and we’ll continue to improve.”
Moises Hernandez, whose signing on loan from FC Dallas was announced Thursday, started in central defense for SAFC. The versatile Mike Seth also started as the right winger in the absence of Omar Gordon, who is currently with the Jamaican national team.
After the sides felt each other out in the opening stages, Phoenix executed well to open the scoring in the 15th minute. Solomon Asante crossed in from the right where fellow forward Chris Cortez headed the ball into the bottom left corner beyond goalkeeper Matt Cardone’s reach. It was the 14th unanswered goal they had scored over the course of six matches.
The goal perhaps gave SAFC the motivation they needed though as they stepped up their game and found an equalizer in the 22nd minute. Midfielder Lance Laing swung in a corner which defender Cyprian Hedrick rose above everybody to head. The goal was Hedrick’s first as a professional player, and Laing tallied his third assist in as many matches.
With momentum on their side, SAFC went on to take the lead in the 33rd minute. Seth intercepted a Phoenix pass and drove forward before playing the ball across for forward Ever Guzman to slot home and become SAFC’s all-time leading scorer in the process.
SAFC solidified their lead five minutes into the second half after midfielder Connor Presley was brought down while trying to find space for a shot and earned a PK. In the absence of usual penalty kick takers, Laing stepped up and smashed the ball into the bottom right corner, having now scored and assisted in each of his last three matches.
SAFC did well to neutralize Phoenix for most of the second half, though a late burst of chances did make things more interesting. An offside call spared SAFC an own goal in the 73rd minute, but Cortez made no mistake from a free kick in the 87th minute, arrowing it into the far corner from just outside the box to cut the lead in half.
SAFC held on for the win though, handing Phoenix their first loss this season when scoring first, having previously been undefeated in 17 such matches.
“We’re stingy defenders, we don’t want to give up anything,” Hedrick said. “Tonight, I think you can see, especially toward the end, people putting their bodies on the line, making sure that (an equalizer) doesn’t go in and we get out with the win.”
SAFC will carry the momentum on an away trip where they’ll play three matches in eight days, first at Tulsa Roughnecks FC on Sept. 15. Given the trip also includes fellow midtable teams Swope Park Rangers and Saint Louis FC, it will be pivotal in determining who sneaks into the playoffs.