COLORADO SPRINGS — As the old saying goes, it’s not how you started it’s how you finish. San Antonio FC found that out first hand in Colorado on Saturday night as they came away with a point they probably shouldn’t have gotten.
After 86 minutes of soccer dominated by Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, a late goal from Justin Dhillon earned SAFC a 1-1 draw before 5,531 fans at Weidner Field.
The result sees San Antonio earn a point in five of their six matches on the season and get their first point on the road this season.
“Obviously Colorado Springs is a strong opponent,” said SAFC Head Coach Alen Marcina. “Their attackers are extremely dangerous as predicted, but I’m proud of my guys to demonstrate resilient behaviors over the course of the 95 minutes. It was a well-earned point.”
San Antonio looked to had started the match off right when Liam Doyle headed home a free-kick from the right side by Cam Lindley just a minute in, but he was caught offside. Instead, Switchbacks FC found the scoreboard thanks to a beautiful through-ball from Deshane Beckford that found Hadji Barry, who buried it into the left corner of the net six minutes in.
Colorado had multiple chances to extend their lead but was unable to punch the ball home. Barry got loose downfield and was one-on-one with SAFC goalkeeper Matt Cardone, who made a left-footed stop to keep it a one-goal game in the 16th minute.
Just before halftime, both sides were reduced to 10 men after SAFC’s Santiago Patino and Colorado Springs’ Michael Edwards were involved in a physical altercation. Both men were shown red cards and could face discipline by the league pending a review.
Switchbacks FC continued to dominate in the second half with Zach Zandi shot towards an open net but SAFC defender Joaquín Varela cleared the ball away. That would lead to Dhillon’s equalizer in the 88th minute off a free kick from Lindley 45 yards out, securing a point for the visiting side.
Here are three key points from Saturday’s draw with Colorado Springs:
That’s the way the ball bounces
For 87 minutes on Saturday, Colorado Springs simply outplayed San Antonio in every aspect of the game. The first half saw Switchbacks FC run circles around SAFC as they had several players get loose downfield and take advantage of SAFC’s depleted backline.
Colorado Springs just could not put the game away. Missing go-ahead goals by inches, shooting the ball high and wide at other times. As was the case last week against RGV, there’s always a chance for a goal when you trail by one in the closing minutes.
“You take the positives you can get,” Dhillion said. “This is our first point on the road. It came with some challenges, but I think the team showed a lot of resilience and I think we can go up from here and take the momentum from the point.”
Welcome to San Antonio!
Saturday night saw midfielder Ollie Wright made his first professional start and Dhillon made his club debut. Wright played 45 minutes and recorded a 75 percent passing accuracy.
Meanwhile, Dhillion had four aerial duels to go along with his first goal in his SAFC debut. Marcina went with a very different lineup than in games past and while San Antonio looked out of sync, it proved to have worked.
Defense secures a point
While Dhillion’s goal ensured San Antonio FC left Colorado with a point, there’s no denying the defense is the main reason this match was not a blowout. Varela made a crucial stop late in the match to deny Zandi putting the home side up two goals.
Varela finished the match by completing 20 of 25 passes while making six clearances and winning 10 of 15 duels. Meanwhile, Cardone made big stops to hold Switchbacks FC to just one goal and had four saves on the night.
“All the guys that came on made a big difference for the team,” Dhillion said. “The guys that stayed on are battling through soreness, altitude, and injuries. To see Varela come off with a shoulder injury and come back to finish the game off to get a point – that’s the mentality you need to become a successful team.”
San Antonio FC is now 2-1-3 (9 points) on the season and will return to the pitch next Friday when they face Las Vegas Lights FC (1-4-0) at 9:30 PM.