LAS VEGAS – San Antonio FC Head Coach Darren Powell knew his team needed points with one-fifth of the 2018 season complete after this week of action. He made a few lineup changes and they may have an impact on the rest of SAFC’s season.
San Antonio FC scored first for the first time all season as they defeated the Las Vegas Lights FC (2-1-2) 3-1 in front of 8,025 fans at Cashman Field on Friday night.
After struggling offensively for the past few weeks, SAFC found the back of the net twice in the opening 45 minutes. Sonny Guadarrama sent a pass in for Ever Guzman, who put it into the empty net in the 17th minute. The goal was Guzman’s first of the season to go along with an assist so far in 2018. Jose Escalante gave SAFC a 2-0 lead in the 33rd minute when he took the pass from Darnell King and volleyed the ball over the head of Vegas goalkeeper Ricardo Ferrino. The two-goal lead for SAFC would hold going into the second half.
“The focus and desire of the players tonight was evident from the first whistle to the last,” Powell said. “It’s always good to earn the first win on the road and to do so against a previously unbeaten team is even better. It’s a tough venue to play in but full credit to the players for their effort and character.”
Vegas came out firing in the second half, applying heavy pressure to SAFC goalkeeper Deigo Restrepo and the San Antonio defense. Jose Escalante was taken down in the box in the 50th minute and the official called a penalty. Rafa Castillo stepped up and converted on the PK, putting the visitors up 3-0.
The home side responded with less than 15 minutes left in the match when Carlos Alvarezburned his old club with a low shot to the back of the net to cut the San Antonio lead to just two goals. The match was extremely physical and got heated several times. Late in the game, Vegas’ Christian Torres was sent off after getting a straight red card for a tackle on Guadarrama.
Here is what went good and bad for SAFC on Friday, as well as three standout players: Ever Guzman, Diego Restrepo, and Jose Escalante.
- After two straight weeks of being held scoreless, SAFC finally found their offense. Not only did they score first but they scored three goals for the first time in a match in the 2018 season.
- Prior to Friday’s match, San Antonio had just four goals in six matches. In Vegas, they had two in the first half alone. SAFC looked like the team that went into the playoffs last season and this could be a sign of good things to come.
- Ever Guzman finally got into the goal column.
- Jose Escalante showed why he was signed by SAFC in the offseason.
- Diego Restrepo continues to have a solid game in net for the second consecutive match.
- Despite Guzman getting his first goal of the season, he was also injured in the match. He came off in the 20th minute after hobbling and was replaced by Alex Bruce. Let’s hope Guzman’s injury is nothing serious.
- Diego Restrepo was banged up countless times and went out of the net on more than an occasion. It seems Powell might need to have a talk with his keeper about that.
Three Standout Players:
After a slow start to the 2018 season in the scoring department, Ever Guzman finally found the back of the net under the Friday night Vegas lights. With Ferrino out of the net, Guzman tapped the ball in off the pass from Sonny Guadarrama, giving SAFC the 1-0 lead in the first half.
Guzman getting on the scoreboard is easily the best news Powell could hope for. With SAFC’s offense really struggling coming into Friday’s match, Guzman getting one to find the back of the net may be just what the doctor ordered. He was the leading goal scorer for San Antonio in the preseason and will likely have more goals to come if he can perform like he did early on Friday.
The bad news is Guzman appeared to be injured following the goal. He came off the pitch with a slight limp and was subbed out as Alex Bruce came on for him in the 20th minute. Let’s hope it is nothing major that will see Guzman miss any time.
For the second straight match, Diego Restrepo showed off why he was named Goalkeeper of the Year in 2017. He came big on several occasions and it was evident in the second half. With Vegas pressuring early on he punched a scoring chance over the net, stopped a 25-yard chance, and held down the fort despite allowing a goal late in the 75th minute.
The negative side is Restrepo was banged up on more than one occasion and went down to the pitch in pain after colliding with Alvarez, holding his calf. Another minor issue might be Restrepo seemed to second-guess himself a few times in the match.
However, that can be easily corrected. That should not take away from the fact that Restrepo has delivered two straight matches of solid play in net. If he can keep this level of play up along with the offense finding new life, San Antonio FC might be able to make a climb back into the top 8 very, very soon.
When Jose Escalante came over from RGV FC Toros in the offseason, Darren Powell was hoping he would be the one to help out on the offensive side of things. He showed SAFC fans exactly why he was brought over on Friday night.
Escalante put home the first goal in an SAFC kit in the 33rdminute off the pass from Darnell King. After being put into the Starting XI the last few weeks, the move seems to have paid off for Powell. Escalante also showed his smarts on the play that led to him being taken down and Castillo converting the PK to increase the lead for San Antonio.
As we all know, in soccer it only takes one goal to get a player going offensively and for both Guzman and Escalante, Friday night in Las Vegas may be what sets a fire inside them to put more goals into the net.
Now, San Antonio will need to take everything from this match to Toyota Field, where they will play five of the next seven matches.
“It was important for us not to lose during this road trip,” Escalante said. “Our goal was to earn a minimum of four points and we did that. Now we want to make sure that we don’t drop anymore points, especially at home, and keep playing even better than we did tonight.”
San Antonio FC is now 2-2-3 (9 points) on the season and will return to the pitch next Saturday when they welcome Fresno FC (2-1-4, 10 points) to Toyota Field at 7:30 p.m. CT.