Image: Isaiah J. Downing, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC
San Antonio FC lost its first USL match of the 2017 season Saturday night, falling 1-0 to hosts Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC at Weidner Field.
SAFC midfielder Pecka was injured and missed his first United Soccer League match of the season, but SAFC’s changes extended beyond that. Forward Shawn Chin and defender Cyprian Hedrick started in place of midfielder Billy Forbes and defender Ben Newnam, respectively. SAFC Head Coach Darren Powell also shifted the team’s listed formation to a 4-3-3.
The Switchbacks have a history of troubling SAFC. The Colorado Springs club won the fixture at their venue 1-0 in 2016 as well and held SAFC to their first non-win of 2017 on April 7 with midfielder Kris Tyrpak scoring late to salvage a 1-1 draw for SAFC.
SAFC’s first proper chance of the match came in the 15th minute following a partially-cleared corner. Defender Stephen McCarthy’s clever footwork presented a chance but his shot was saved by Switchbacks goalkeeper Moise Pouaty.
Within seconds, the hosts were looking for a winner of their own on the counter. SAFC got back just in time to break up the attack and keep the match scoreless. It was one of a large number of tests the SAFC defense faced throughout the night, whether on the counter or as part of sustained pressure.
SAFC got another chance in the 24th minute as forward Aly Alberto Hassan was allowed to advance up the right side of the field. When he finally fired off a shot though, Pouaty tipped the ball away for a corner, which yielded nothing.
Four minutes later, Switchbacks defender Josh Suggs forced SAFC goalkeeper Diego Restrepo into a save of his own. As the ball came out to Suggs, he blasted a shot toward goal which Restrepo could only tip over for a corner. Nothing came of the resulting set piece.
Just as it seemed the sides would head into halftime scoreless, the Switchbacks capitalized off a free kick on the left side of their 18-yard box in stoppage time. Midfielder Masta Kacher lifted the ball into the box and defender Sean McFarlane headed the ball beyond Restrepo and in.
SAFC continued to absorb pressure and looked for chances on the counter as usual, and they came close to an equalizer in the 64th minute. Midfielder Mark O’Ojong played a long ball forward and Tyrpak was just able to reach it in time. Tyrpak outfoxed his defender and crossed the ball in front of goal, but Pouaty snatched the ball out of the air.
The Switchbacks again tested Restrepo off a free kick in the 66th minute. Forward Kevaughn Frater struck the ball hard and on target, forcing Restrepo to dive left and parry the ball for a corner.
SAFC let another chance pass them by in the 71st minute after good work on the left flank to find space and get off a cross. Defender Greg Cochrane slid the ball in front of goal, but neither Tyrpak nor Hassan could get a good shot off, allowing Pouaty to collect the ball.
SAFC’s struggles reached a climax in the 77th minute as Restrepo was sent off for a denial of a clear goalscoring opportunity, coming out and bringing down the onrushing Frater without touching the ball. After receiving just one red card in all of 2016, SAFC has now seen two in 2017, the first just a few weeks ago on June 3 against the Swope Park Rangers. Lee Johnston replaced Restrepo in goal and made his USL debut a minute after the sending-off.
In the 82nd minute, SAFC had one more close call in their attempt to grab what would have been a rather valuable equalizer and point away from home, especially after going down a man. Following a free kick, the ball fell to Tyrpak but his shot bounced off the crossbar.
Johnston was tested a couple times late in the match as SAFC left themselves somewhat vulnerable, pushing for an equalizer while down a man. Johnston made a save after the SAFC defense asked in vain for an offside call, then a Switchbacks player rounded him but fired wide from a tight angle a few minutes later. The Switchbacks never needed the second goal they sought though as the clock soon struck midnight on SAFC.
“Obviously, we’re all bitterly disappointed to lose a game, but it’s about how we respond,” Powell said.
After not conceding in seven straight USL matches, SAFC has now allowed goals in two games running. SAFC’s defense has been the foundation of their 2017 season so far, so slippage there combined with continuing offensive struggles could be problematic.
SAFC also now has to contend with a shortage of goalkeepers as Matt Cardone is still injured and Restrepo will be suspended for the July 1 meeting with Sacramento Republic FC, leaving only Johnston.
SAFC Starting XI (4-3-3): Diego Restrepo; Cyprian Hedrick, Sebastien Ibeagha, Syephen McCarthy, Greg Cochrane; Michael Reed(c), Mark O’Ojong (Devin Vega 67’), Maxi Rodriguez; Kris Tyrpak, Aly Alberto Hassan (Lee Johnston 78’), Shawn Chin (Billy Forbes 59’)
Substitutes not used: Newnam, Castillo, Araujo, Ajeakwa
SAFC Discipline: Diego Restrepo (red card, 77th minute – first of the season)