LAS VEGAS — San Antonio FC and Las Vegas Lights FC played to a 1-1 draw at Cashman Field on Friday night after a late penalty by SAFC with eight minutes remaining would bring another frustrating result.
The result sees San Antonio earn another point on their three-game road trip, which concludes Wednesday night in New Mexico. SAFC has now had a draw in three straight matches and has not won a match since their 2-1 win against Birmingham on May 22.
“Las Vegas poised a good challenge,” said SAFC Head Coach Alen Marcina. “They brought a lot of energy and intensity. I felt we were very organized defensively and created enough opportunities to get more than just one goal, but there are details that we have to refine, improve and learn from to get better.”
San Antonio opened the scoring early off a set piece when midfielder Emil Cuello’s corner kick found defender Joaquin Varela’s foot, who put the ball into the far corner of the net for the 1-0 SAFC lead. The goal was Varela’s first for the club a week after dislocating his shoulder in the draw against Colorado Springs.
From there, Vegas controlled much of the match. They had the ball for 75 percent of the time in the opening 45 minutes and the majority of the second half. SAFC goalkeeper Matt Cardone made big saves to keep his team in front and it looked like San Antonio would escape Vegas with all three points.
However, in the 82nd minute, San Antonio midfielder Ollie Wright brought down Vegas’ Roberto Molina in the box and was called for a penalty. Cal Jennings stepped up and fired low into the left corner, leveling the match 1-1 and securing a point for the home side.
Here are three takeaways from Friday night’s draw in Las Vegas:
Mistakes add up
While it is still very early in the season, the mistakes in matches are starting to add up for SAFC and it is costing them valuable points. San Antonio tied in their last three matches but in two of those three, they were leading in the final 10 minutes of play.
A late goal from Rio Grande Valley saw SAFC lose out on two points. A week later, a late goal from Justin Dhillon saw San Antonio preserve a point. Then we get to Friday’s match and another mistake led to Jennings’ PK to earn both sides a point.
It could be argued that this trend is not one San Antonio wants to be in the history books. SAFC likely left four out of a possible 12 points on the board and with the Mountain Division standings now tightening, it might come back to bite them in October.
“We have to continue to increase our execution on both sides of the ball,” Cardone said. “We need a little more killer instinct going forward as well as defensively, and make sure we are playing 100 percent in every moment of the game because every moment counts.”
Tough as nails
Joaquin Varela had the lone goal for San Antonio in the match on Friday. It was his first goal of the season and it came just six days after he suffered a dislocated shoulder in the match against Colorado Springs, only to pop it back in and return to the game.
Varela added four tackles, six clearances, and two interceptions on Friday night.
“He gets better from week to week,” Marcina said. “It’s not an easy adjustment, this is his first time outside of his home country of Argentina. We are very proud of him; he is someone of high character and he has been performing very well for us. We know we will continue to see more from Varela.”
Friday night began a stretch of three matches in eight days for San Antonio FC and with their spot in the top four of the Mountain Division tightening up, it will be all hands on deck for the club.
Without leading scorer Santiago Patino due to a three-game suspension and a backline depleted with injuries, rest will be key for SAFC.
“We have to push on and make sure everyone is mentally and physically ready,” Cardone said. “We are going to need our depth since we have a busy week. We know whichever guys are on the field are going to be ready and are going to give 100 percent.”
San Antonio FC is now 2-1-4 (10 points) on the season and will return to the pitch on Wednesday night when they face New Mexico United (3-2-1) in a rematch of their Western Conference Quarterfinal playoff series.