Image: Steve Aibel, LittleOrcaSports.com / Pitch Black News
San Antonio FC downed Arizona United SC 3-2 Wednesday night at Toyota Field. This was the second meeting between the two after they met for the first time ever just four days prior at Peoria Sports Complex where Arizona snagged a 1-0 home win.
The game saw numerous changes to the lineup for SAFC. Franck Tayou got his first start for SAFC after scoring three goals in eight appearances as a substitute. He replaced Taylor Morgan in the lineup after the English forward picked up his fifth yellow card of the season on Saturday.
Max Gunderson also made his first home appearance for SAFC as he continued to fill in for Milton Palacios, who was still recovering from a concussion sustained Aug. 6 away to Sacramento Republic FC. Shortly before kickoff, it was announced Josh Ford had injured himself in warmups and was scratched off the team sheet, giving Matt Cardone his fifth start of the season and promoting Lee Johnston to the bench.
“We’ve got a deep roster,” said SAFC’s Max Gunderson. “Every (player) knows that when your name gets called, you have to be ready.”
SAFC wasted no time trying to get on the board. Hardly five minutes in, they had created three solid chances which failed to open the scoring only because of an off-target finish, the linesman flagging for offside and a point-blank save by Arizona goalkeeper Carl Woszczynski.
After the numerous lineup changes that occurred before kickoff, SAFC were forced into another early on as Stephen McCarthy went off with an arm injury in the 14th minute. Though a stretcher was brought over to where he fell, he walked off the field of his own accord. The club later said he had been taken to a nearby hospital for further evaluation
The injury didn’t change SAFC’s attacking impetus though and their aggression finally paid off in the 32nd minute. A well-placed and well-weighted through ball by Sebastien Thuriere found Carlos Alvarez who slid the ball from just outside the 18-yard box into the corner of the net past the onrushing Woszczynski.
Despite Arizona getting forward more, SAFC doubled their lead not long after establishing it. Cesar Elizondo latched onto a ball lofted down the right flank before cutting the ball back to Tayou, who moved inside and precisely placed the ball in the bottom corner out of Woszczynski’s reach.
Arizona would halve SAFC’s lead before halftime though as Luke Rooney had the ball laid off to him at the top of SAFC’s 18-yard box and blasted a shot into the top corner of the net and out of Cardone’s reach.
Arizona came out slightly more energized in the second half, but SAFC restored their two-goal lead in the 56th minute as Franck Tayou sent a ball across the top of the 18-yard box which an Arizona defender tried but failed to cut out before Elizondo controlled and sent yet another precise shot into the corner of the net past Woszczynski’s outstretched arm.
Seeing the lead over them restored to two, Arizona began pushing harder and nearly brought themselves back within a goal on multiple occasions. A long-distance shot by Arizona in the 62nd minute was saved by Cardone before Chris Cortez sent the rebound toward goal, thwarted only by a Greg Cochrane clearance off the line. Just minutes later, Arizona were awarded a penalty kick by the referee only for the linesman to flag an Arizona player offside and negate the spot-kick.
Arizona would continue to exert pressure on SAFC though, drawing some crucial stops out of SAFC’s defense and some impressive saves out of Cardone. They eventually clawed another goal back via a penalty kick, this time without protest from the linesman. Biko Bradnock-Brennan was determined to have hauled an Arizona attacker down in the 18-yard box and Rooney doubled his tally for the night, beating Cardone from the penalty spot.
Despite the late scare though, SAFC saw out their 3-2 lead. This was their first win since July 16, a 2-0 win over Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 where Cardone also played as Ford began a three-game suspension.
“We’ve had some games where we played quite well and haven’t come out with a result, so tonight, it was about getting the result” said SAFC head coach Darren Powell.
Wednesday’s win didn’t help SAFC much in the standings, sending them up only one place in the United Soccer League western conference. However, they now sit only two points behind Arizona United, the current occupant of the eighth and final playoff position.
SAFC will continue the pivotal final stretch of the season on Saturday against Seattle Sounders FC 2, who SAFC beat 3-0 in their first ever competitive match on April 3. Forward Jason Johnson marked the historic game with two goals in the first 10 minutes. SAFC will hope for a similar result Saturday as they continue to push for a playoff spot.
SAFC Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Matt Cardone; Max Gunderson, Stephen McCarthy (Sam McBride 13’), Biko Bradnock-Brennan, Greg Cochrane; Sebastien Thuriere (Fejiro Okiomah 87’), Miguel Salazar; Cesar Elizondo, Rafa Castillo(c), Carlos Alvarez (Danny Garcia 75’); Franck Tayou (Manolo Sanchez 73’)
Substitutions not used: Johnston, Johnson, Dunker
SAFC Discipline: Yellow card, Franck Tayou (1st of the season), Cesar Elizondo (2nd of the season), Biko Bradnock-Brennan (3rd of the season)
SAFC Official Man of the match: Cesar Elizondo