Image: Darren Abate, USL
Ending another season with a South Texas Derby, San Antonio FC and Rio Grande Valley FC drew 1-1 at Toyota Field on Saturday night, leaving SAFC with the smallest of chances to make the playoffs.
“We knew we had a mountain to climb in terms of getting back into the playoff hunt,” said SAFC Head Coach Darren Powell. “That mountain was to win three (matches) in a row to give the best opportunity…what the players have done, they’ve put themselves in that position and now we have to wait and see.”
SAFC stuck with the same lineup which came from behind to defeat Las Vegas Lights FC 3-1 a week earlier. Valley native Mikey Lopez and former RGVFC player Jose Escalante started in midfield for SAFC, and former RGVFC midfielder Charlie Ward was on the bench.
SAFC dominated the early stages of the match and made it count in the 24th minute as forward Ever Guzman headed in from a few yards out after midfielder Lance Laing swung the ball in from the right shortly after a corner. Guzman’s goal set a SAFC record of 11 in a single season, while Laing now leads SAFC with six assists this season.
RGVFC began to push back after conceding though and built momentum even into the second half, culminating in a 51st minute equalizer. Carlos Small drove forward and played the ball to fellow forward Jesus Enriquez, who sent it back in front of goal for Small to poke past SAFC goalkeeper Matt Cardone, pegging SAFC back.
The match opened up more as SAFC fought for a winning goal – and sometimes left themselves exposed at the back. Cardone was forced into six saves in total, including a few crucial late ones to keep the score level.
SAFC players and fans alike will remember one pivotal moment which could have handed them the win. Laing chased down a ball played across the box in the second minute of stoppage time and was brought down, but the referee didn’t see enough evidence to award that late, helpful PK.
“We had heart and we battled, but we didn’t put away our chances,” said SAFC defender Greg Cochrane. “We were obviously trying to score the goals but you fall asleep for a half-second and they capitalize on their one chance.”
With just a draw tonight, SAFC jumped above Swope Park Rangers in the USL Western Conference standings for the final playoff spot for now. However, Swope will host Los Angeles Galaxy II tomorrow afternoon and just needs a draw to hop back above SAFC and bump them out of the playoffs.