Image: Darren Abate, San Antonio FC
San Antonio FC defeated Sacramento Republic FC 1-0 Saturday night at Toyota Field in a tight affair on the Republic’s first ever visit to San Antonio.
The match was Sacramento’s first ever trip to San Antonio after the clubs played to a 1-1 draw in Sacramento in the 2016 season. Saturday was also the first time SAFC had played at home since April 15, having traveled to the Pacific Northwest to face and defeat three MLS reserve sides since then.
“To go in and battle every single minute of this game and throughout the season, it’s been huge,” SAFC midfielder Kris Tyrpak said. “It shows that we have the right mindset right now, and it’s working for us.”
The first half see-sawed as Sacramento came out of the gates and got forward more, but SAFC grew into the game as it wore on. Sacramento did a good job of stifling SAFC’s passing and giving them little space with which to maneuver.
Sacramento got the first serious chance of the match in the 18th minute. Trying to catch SAFC on the break, forward Sammy Ochoa raced into an opening behind the defense before goalkeeper Diego Restrepo and defender Stephen McCarthy both blocked Sacramento shots before the ball was dribbled away.
SAFC’s best chance of the first half came in the 34th minute as midfielder Billy Forbes made use of his speed and trickery on the left. Sacramento defender Julius James, who played with the San Antonio Scorpions from 2014 to 2015, managed to prevent Forbes from getting a shot off. Sacramento goalkeeper Evan Newton easily plucked the resulting corner out of the air.
SAFC had a chance to take the lead just before halftime as defender Ben Newnam crossed the ball in from the right. However, midfielder Rafa Castillo’s header went just over the bar, sending the sides into halftime scoreless.
After a few chances for Sacramento early in the second half, SAFC nearly grabbed the opening goal in the 52nd minute off of a quick break, as usual. However, Castillo was denied by Newton at point-blank range after a ball chipped over the defense found him.
SAFC would soon grab the lone goal of the match though from the penalty spot in the 64th minute. Midfielder Kris Tyrpak chipped the ball over the Sacramento defense for forward AJ Ajeakwa, who was brought down, and Castillo sent the resulting spot-kick into the top right corner for the 1-0 lead.
SAFC tried to double their lead in the 73rd minute off of a typical counter. After a Sacramento corner was cleared, SAFC midfielder Billy Forbes ran up the left flank before Sacramento pulled him back – likely a wise choice as that move often ends in an SAFC goal.
Despite an increase in pressure from the Republic late in the match, SAFC saw their lead out to the final whistle. Goalkeeper Diego Restrepo earned his second clean sheet for SAFC after tallying four saves, including tipping a header away for a corner kick before it could sneak into the net in the 84th minute.
“Diego knew he had to come in and step up (after Matt Cardone’s injury) and tonight he certainly did that,” SAFC Head Coach Darren Powell said. “Tonight, he grew again as a goalkeeper and I still think we’ve got the best of Diego Restrepo to see.”
SAFC will look to build on their table-topping form through the first quarter of the season on May 13 when they host Seattle Sounders FC 2, who the club beat 3-2 on their recent road trip to the Pacific Northwest.
SAFC Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Diego Restrepo; Ben Newnam, Sebastien Ibeagha, Stephen McCarthy, Greg Cochrane; Michael Reed(c), Pecka; Kris Tyrpak, Rafa Castillo (Zach Herivaux 78’), Billy Forbes (Shawn Chin 86’); Cesar Elizondo (Akwafei Ajeakwa 41’)
Substitutes not used: Johnston, Roushandel, Vega, Hassan
SAFC Discipline: Sebastien Ibeagha (yellow card, 76th minute – fourth of the season)