Image: San Antonio FC / USL

San Antonio FC defeated Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 by a score of 2-1 Saturday afternoon at Thunderbird Stadium to remain undefeated and at the top of the United Soccer League western conference.

With three games in seven days, SAFC Head Coach Darren Powell opted to rest defender Ben Newnam, midfielder Rafa Castillo and forward Cesar Elizondo. In their places were Shawn Chin, who was converted from forward to right back, midfielder Devin Vega and forward Aly Alberto Hassan, respectively, all making their first starts of the season.

“It was a team effort (and) one of those games that we had to grind out on the road,” Hassan said. “It’s not always pretty, but that’s what good teams are made of, fighting through and earning points on the road.”

While both sides had similar shares of the ball in the first half, SAFC was first onto the scoreboard. After a Vancouver attack in the 22nd minute, goalkeeper Matt Cardone quickly threw the ball out to midfielder Billy Forbes, who was still in SAFC’s half. Forbes raced up the left side of the pitch and sent the ball into the box for Hassan to poke into the net for his first of the season.

Forbes looked to play the provider again in the 35th minute, this time crossing the ball in from the right. However, defender Stephen McCarthy was unable to delicately touch the ball past Vancouver goalkeeper Sean Melvin from a couple yards out, chipping it onto the roof of the net.

SAFC might have regretted that chance to take a two-goal lead as Vancouver found their equalizer just seconds before the halftime whistle. Ben McKendry’s shot came off the post before fellow midfielder Marco Bustos took a touch and slotted the ball home from a few yards out.

SAFC wasted no time regaining their lead though, scoring not even a minute into the second half. A ball lobbed upfield by Chin bounced once before Forbes headed it up and over Melvin and into the net. This marked Forbes’ third goal of the season, and he’s both scored and assisted in three of five games so far.

Though Vancouver increased their pressure as the half wore on, they were never able to get the ball over the line a second time. SAFC held onto all three points for their fourth win out of five matches to start 2017.

“We’ve come with a plan for this trip,” Powell said. “There isn’t a better way to start a trip than with three points, but our focus now becomes straight away to Seattle to make sure we deliver the correct performance.”

An injury to goalkeeper Matt Cardone will sour the result a bit for SAFC. Cardone went down inexplicably and was inspected by a trainer before coming off in the 56th minute. Diego Restrepo replaced him for his first minutes of the season.

On a brighter note, Vega’s start was the first of his professional career after coming off the bench in the last two games and earning a penalty late in the 4-0 win over Reno 1868 FC on April 15. The San Antonio native played the full match in Vancouver.

Victor Araujo made the bench for the first time since a season-ending injury in June 2016, while Zachary Herivaux was also listed as a substitute after being officially loaned from MLS’s New England Revolution on Friday. Neither player was substituted on.

SAFC will play two more games in the Pacific Northwest against Seattle Sounders FC 2 on Tuesday and Portland Timbers 2 on Friday.

Match Details:

SAFC Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Matt Cardone (Diego Restrepo 56’); Shawn Chin (Maxi Rodriguez 56’), Sebastien Ibeagha, Stephen McCarthy, Greg Cochrane; Michael Reed(c), Pecka; Kris Tyrpak, Devin Vega, Billy Forbes; Aly Alberto Hassan (Akwafei Ajeakwa 84’)

Substitutes not used: Roushandel, Araujo, Nino, Herivaux

SAFC Discipline: Sebastien Ibeagha (yellow card, 26th minute – second of the season), Stephen McCarthy (yellow card, 90th minute – third of the season)

Posted by J. Check

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