SACRAMENTO – San Antonio FC had a less than ideal start to the 2018 season as they fell 1-2 to Sacramento Republic FC (1-0-0) in front of 11,569 fans at Papa Murphy’s Park on Saturday night.
The loss saw San Antonio’s perfect record in season-opening games come to an end, falling to 2-1-0 all-time. Sacramento got goals from Keven Aleman and Christian Eissele in first half stoppage time and the 48th minute respectively. SAFC battled back as Mikey Lopez converted on a low shot in the right corner to beat Sacramento keeper Josh Cohen in the 68th minute.
“Our guys fought very hard until the final whistle and the final chance of the game,” SAFC Head Coach Darren Powell said. “When you play Sacramento, it’s always going to be very difficult. It’s a hard place to earn points and tonight we fell a little bit short.”
A last-minute rally for San Antonio would prove to be too little, too late as Sacramento earned three points.
“The response from our players being down 2-0 was good,” Powell said. “We changed the shape a bit and were able to get ourselves back in the game. I felt we were going to get the second goal but it didn’t quite happen tonight, but the effort of the players and desire to get back was there for everybody to see.”
Here is what went good and bad for San Antonio FC on Saturday as well as three standout players: Mikey Lopez, Connor Presley, and Omar Gordon.
- Despite the loss, SAFC came out strong in the second half. They pushed the ball downfield for scoring chances and on the defensive side won the one-on-one battles early on.
- Fans got a glimpse some of the youngest members of the 2018 roster. Powell substituted 19-year-old Alex Bruce in the late in the second half along with Presley. Both showed their skills and changed the momentum of the match. This will mean only good things for San Antonio going forward.
- Sacramento may have outplayed San Antonio a majority of the match, but the second half saw a spark from SAFC that could not be found in the first 45. If San Antonio can bring that same intensity for next week’s home opener, they should be able to grab three points.
- Mikey Lopez looks like the real deal. More on that in a moment.
- No club ever wants to start the season with injuries but that’s exactly what San Antonio had to deal with on Saturday. Rafa Castillo, Stephen McCarthy, Sonny Guadarrama, and Cesar Elizondo all missed the match with lower body injuries. Meanwhile, Jose Escalante was suspended due to red card accumulation that carried over from the 2017 season. Who knows what difference those guys would have made, we possibly would have had a different result.
- Diego Restrepo showed flashes of what earned him 2017 Goalkeeper of the Year but was not sharp overall on Saturday. He made several mistakes, including coming out of goal to make a play on the ball with two Sacramento players near the ball and an open net. Luckily there are plenty of more games for him to look back into form.
- Due to injuries some players had to play out of position. This resulted in Ever Guzman never really having an impact on the match and captain Ryan Roushandel playing as an attacking midfielder instead of his usual defender position.
- SAFC’s defense was not up to par on Saturday, a far cry from last season’s league-leading effort. Maybe it has to do with injuries but Sacramento’s first goal was a result of a defensive miscue due to the formation.
Three Standout Players:
When you score the opening goal in a new season, you are going to be a standout player. For Mikey Lopez that combined with his solid play, earns him the honor.
With SAFC down 0-2, Presley’s shot went off the post and fell perfectly for Lopez to convert on the low shot for the first San Antonio goal of 2018. Lopez’s debut in an SAFC kit was one to remember and not just because of the goal. He played hard with his team down two goals and forced the ball into the box, setting up several scoring chances. He sent in a cross intended for midfielder Kris Tyrpak but Cohen would make the save. In the 70th minute, he would try to get another goal but his shot went into Cohen’s arms.
“We scored a goal and were looking for the second one, but unfortunately it didn’t come,” Lopez said. “It’s a positive sign to see how we fought and finished the game, because we know we’re always going to give our all until the end.”
— San Antonio FC (@SanAntonioFC) March 18, 2018
Powell inserted Connor Presley late in the second half and the move really changed the course of the match. Despite not scoring, he did have a hand in SAFC’s goal as Lopez put home the rebound tally due to Presley’s shot going off the post.
Presley came out firing and his performance really has SAFC fans feeling positive about the season. He came on strong and went to wrong as he battled for possession, pushed the attack, and stayed aggressive on the ball. His play changed the momentum of the game and shifted to SAFC in the final minutes of action. Its possible Powell may have found his ‘spark’ off the bench like “Franck The Tank” from 2016.
After impressing the SAFC coaching staff last season, Omar Gordon showed exactly what he will bring to the San Antonio squad as a new season gets underway.
Gordon was aggressive on the ball from the opening whistle, despite Sacramento outshooting San Antonio 4-0. He played the ball well and sent three shots towards the net. Gordon was one of the standouts for San Antonio after a lackluster first half.
If San Antonio can get healthy before next week’s home opener and these three players can continue to play as well as they did in Sacramento, SAFC is prime for a great 2018 season.
San Antonio FC is now 0-1-0 (0 points) on the season and will return to the pitch next Saturday when they welcome Saint Louis FC (0-0-1) to Toyota Field for the club’s home opener at 7:30 p.m. CST