Image: Steve Aibel, Pitch Black News/Little Orca Sports
San Antonio FC lost a hard-fought match 1-0 against OKC Energy FC at Toyota Field before a crowd of 6,165 Saturday night. The two sides were meeting for the second consecutive time in league play after a 1-1 draw May 15 at Taft Stadium in Oklahoma City.
SAFC wasted no time trying to make their mark on the scoreboard. A clever flick by Rafa Castillo in the second minute was latched onto on the left side by Danny Garcia, who turned an Energy FC defender or two inside out before firing narrowly wide across goal.
Despite that early SAFC chance, Energy FC nearly snatched the lead just a few minutes later as a Coy Craft strike came off the SAFC crossbar. Energy FC would continue to exert pressure, but the SAFC defense held firm as the offense looked to spring on the counter.
A quick SAFC counter in the 12th minute ended in a powerful shot by Jason Johnson being tipped just over by Energy FC goalkeeper Cody Laurendi. SAFC continued to assert their attacking skill on the counter. In the 18th minute, Garcia again found himself headed toward goal, nudged the ball past Laurendi but was forced too wide to get off a decent shot.
The first yellow card came in the 27th minute as Danny Garcia put in a slight challenge from behind on Danni König. After that though, SAFC seized control of the match and found themselves with a free kick at the top of the 18-yard box after Garcia was brought down. Castillo’s free kick was right at Laurendi and tipped just over.
Another solid chance came SAFC’s way in the 31st minute as Shawn Chin, latching onto a ball aimlessly booted upfield, cut back from the left for Castillo, whose shot went out off the crossbar. SAFC maintained pressure for a few minutes without creating any clear-cut chances before Energy FC did the same themselves to close out the half.
SAFC had the better run of play and chances to start the second half, but it was Energy FC who would finally break the deadlock. On their first real foray of the half, a cross from the right side by Sebastian Dalgaard was met by a header at the far post from Colin Bonner, who lost his marker, which went past SAFC goalkeeper Josh Ford to give Energy FC the 1-0 lead.
“Defensively, as a group, the guys have to make sure there isn’t a moment that (they) don’t track a run or don’t make a tackle,” SAFC Head Coach Darren Powell said. “These moments in a game can define the score.”
Following the goal, SAFC looked to respond immediately and regained control of the game for the following minutes, with Energy FC getting the occasional foray forward in an attempt to double their lead.
Powell made a huge roll of the dice in the 67th minute when he subbed on Bobby Moseley, Michael Reed and Jacques Francois all at once to replace Greg Cochrane, Carlos Alvarez and Jason Johnson.
The slew of substitutions marked Michael Reed’s first minutes since April 18 at Orange County Blues FC. Additionally, Greg Cochrane’s removal meant that he has no longer played every minute of the season. Cochrane was the last player to have that distinction after both Josh Ford and Sam McBride sat out the May 7 game against Rio Grande Valley FC.
SAFC looked to equalize off a slick counterattack in the 70th minute as Moseley ran forward and cut inside. His powerful strike was merely deflected out for a corner.
“Whenever we’re in the box, we need to have a more ‘kill’ mentality, more willingness to sacrifice,” Reed said. “We just need to capitalize on our moments, because we’re not going to get (them) all the time.”
The match soon returned to see-sawing, as it did earlier in the game, with neither side sustaining pressure for more than a few minutes at a time. Perhaps the best chance came in the 79th minute as Francois made a strong run forward. However, he found himself too close to the endline, leaving too small of an angle at which to finish, and he fired into the side netting.
SAFC pushed increasingly as the final whistle drew near, but Energy FC’s defense continued to hold strong. The occasional substitution by them also helped to run down the clock and break up any late momentum SAFC gained. SAFC’s increased pressure drew Energy FC yellow cards for Daniel Gonzalez and Michael Byskov in the 86th and 89th minutes, respectively.
Five minutes of stoppage time looked promising for SAFC, and they nearly found an equalizer. A free kick from the left side was met well by the head of Sam McBride, but the chance was straight at Laurendi and the Energy FC goalie took his time restarting play, as was his tendency near the end of the game. Despite a few late jabs for SAFC, nothing was good enough to beat the sturdy Energy FC defense before the referee blew his whistle for full time.
While SAFC has only conceded at most a single goal in nine of 10 games so far this year in all competitions, they also have not kept a clean sheet since their first game, a 3-0 win over Sounders 2. A well-marshalled defense is put under more pressure when SAFC isn’t able to convert on a number of good chances in attack.
“In the key moments of the game, we have to execute; it’s as simple as that,” Powell said. “We just didn’t score the goals when we needed to.”
SAFC will close out what has been a busy stretch on Wednesday against Rio Grande Valley FC. The match marks SAFC’s fourth game in an eleven-day period. The midweek matchup will also be a rematch of the dramatic 2-3 game from May 7 where SAFC conceded the winning RGVFC goal in stoppage time.