SAN ANTONIO – A late goal from Alex Bruce in the second half saw San Antonio FC play to a 1-1 draw against OKC Energy FC (5-10-2) in front of 7,234 fans at Toyota Field on Wednesday night in the first-ever match for SAFC on 4th of July.
The match took place after an hour delay due to inclement weather earlier in the 4th of July holiday. The result would be the sixth time the two clubs would compete to a draw as OKC remains the lone team SAFC has never beaten in league play.
“When you go down a goal, you have to show that character and resilience to get back into the game,” SAFC Head Coach Darren Powell said. “I thought the guys showed that tonight with the way they fought to get the tying goal, and I thought we started to get on the front foot a little bit.”
San Antonio began the match on the defensive as OKC quickly got the ball into the SAFC box and Miguel Gonzalez’s shot was denied by San Antonio goalkeeper Matt Cardone. Later in the half, Omar Gordon let rip but OKC keeper Matt van Oekel parried it away.
The second half saw the visiting side take the lead in the 68th minute as Jose Barril’s beautiful volley went to the right corner of the net, giving Cardone no chance to make a save. SAFC would preserve a point when let go a rocket from 25 yards out to seal the draw and point.
Here is what went good and bad for San Antonio FC as well as three standout players: Matt Cardone, Cyprian Hedrick, and Alex Bruce.
- After being on the wrong side in the shots department, SAFC changed that on this 4th of July. San Antonio outshot OKC 8-1 in the first half of play, including two shots from Omar Gordon.
- Alex Bruce saved his club to send the fans home happy on the fourth of July holiday.
- SAFC’s defense looked solid most of the night, led by Hedrick and Greg Cochrane.
- Ever Guzman nearly gave SAFC their first ever win over OKC with his header but the play was ruled dead after the striker was ruled offside.
- The rain put a damper on the 4th of July festivities, literally. The match was delayed an hour due to the weather, making it the second consecutive match that SAFC played to have a delay.
- Not only did the rain delay the game but the postgame fireworks were also canceled. The fans who stayed were slightly disappointed.
Three Standout Players:
The San Antonio native made his first league start of 2018 and first start in USL play since April 2017. It was a surprising move and Cardone got into a rhythm early as he was tested by OKC’s offense in the first half.
Cardone made his first save of the night just four minutes into the match when he punched the ball away with the visiting side on the attack. Then in the 16th minute, the goalkeeper made the stop as he was falling on the seat of his pants.
The solid play from Cardone continued in the second half despite allowing a goal in the 68th minute. He made two big stops that would keep the match scoreless and it proved how huge his performance was once the final whistle was blown.
In the 62nd minute, he parried the ball away off a shot just inside the box. Prior to that, he made another big save in the 55th minute.
“Any time you get to play it’s going to be a battle, and every player knows that,” Cardone said. “When our number is called, we know that it’s going to be a fight for ninety minutes, but you also know your teammates are going to have your back, so you just go out and give it your all.”
While having Diego Restrepo in net is great, Cardone proved on Wednesday just how skilled both of SAFC’s keepers are. If San Antonio can find a way to tighten up their defense, it would be much more difficult on opposing teams in the second half of the season.
After his impressive return to the pitch a few weeks ago against Sacramento Republic, Hedrick returned to the Starting XI against his old club.
The former OKC defender came up big in stopping the OKC attack several times on Wednesday night. In the first half, he cleared the ball out of danger following Cardone’s big save.
The second half saw Hedrick put a beautiful ball on Gordon’s foot for a scoring chance. Back on the OKC attack, he would head the ball out of danger and kept the ball out of the box, forcing a turnover from the visiting side.
Powell inserted Englishman Alex Bruce into the match in the 66th minute and after his late game heroics against Portland Timbers 2 earlier in the season, he would come up big again to preserve a point for his club.
“I saw the time and tried to read the situation I was going into,” Bruce said. “The mentality is to try to get anything and get on the end of things, so that’s what I did.”
Bruce provided a massive spark to SAFC’s offensive attack. First, he leveled the score 1-1 with a rocket of a shot from 25-yards out in the 77th minute and in the 81st minute nearly gave SAFC the lead but his header bounced on the front of the goal and over the net.
“Alex is a good young man who is learning the profession, and every time he gets on the training field you know what you’re going to get from him, which is everything he has,” Powell said of Bruce.
Alex Bruce has proven every time he is on the pitch that he can deliver for the club, scoring when it is needed the most. It will be interesting to see if Powell will put Bruce into the Starting XI in the club’s next USL match on July 14.
San Antonio FC is now 5-4-7 (22 points) on the season and will take the weekend off USL action and host Liga MX champions Santos Laguna for an exhibition match at Toyota Field on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. CT.
The club will return to league play on July 14 when they travel to California to face Orange County SC at 9 p.m. CT from Champions Soccer Stadium at OC Great Park.