Facing their fourth game in 11 days, San Antonio FC took on Rio Grande Valley FC Toros and finally got the shutout they’d been craving. While the needed win didn’t happen, San Antonio’s defense stepped up and kept RGV FC scoreless for a 0-0 draw.
“We lost the last two home games, so to come out with a clean sheet is an improvement,” said San Antonio FC coach Darren Powell after the match.
San Antonio started the match well, taking it to an RGV FC side which was depleted by Houston Dynamo call-ups. Despite having a lot of the early possession, it was Rio Grande Valley who had the first chance of the match to score in just the fourth minute.
A horrible defensive mistake from Biko Bradnock-Brennan let Memo Rodriguez in on goal, but he mercifully shot wide, letting Bradnock-Brennan off the hook.
RGV really started to get into the match after the 15th minute, putting pressure on a San Antonio back-line that has leaked goals this season. Despite that, the chances were still rare, and when they did come they were rarely on target.
Josh Ford came to the rescue in the 16th minute when Kyle Murphy was played through on goal, seemingly bound to score. Ford came rushing off his line, forcing Murphy to attempt to chip the ball, but Ford reached up and made the save, allowing San Antonio FC to clear.
It was Ford, again, in the 19th minute after Sam McBride gave away a foul on the edge of the area, giving the Toros a dangerous free-kick. It was curled in, dipping at goal, but Ford reached up and sent the ball out for a corner which came to naught for RGV FC.
After San Antonio FC lost possession in midfield, Rodriguez was allowed to run at the San Antonio goal and used that momentum to shoot. His shot was powerful, but again Ford proved to be a brick-wall in the San Antonio goal and made the save to keep it out.
After a long period without a chance, San Antonio FC finally got an opportunity when Jason Johnson used his strength to beat Charlie Ward. That allowed Johnson a free run on goal after he cut inside on his player, but the shot was well saved by Calle Brown.
Ford continued to be impregnable and made a stunning save in the 39th minute to keep the match scoreless. Rodriguez found space on the edge of the area for the Toros and launched a powerful shot which Ford deflected.
“(Ford) was man of the match tonight,” Powell said. “He did a good job … he made some big saves in big moments, he delivered a good performance for us tonight. It’s our first clean sheet since the first game of the season so that’s something we can take out of this.”
A corner provided San Antonio with a golden opportunity right at the end of the half, when the ball was floated in perfectly for Shawn Chin, whose volley was blocked for another corner. That corner was again a golden opportunity when the ball found the head of McBride whose effort was well saved by Brown.
“I think five goalkeepers on the opposition have been man of the match this year,” lamented Powell, “so I think that shows you we’re getting close. Now, if we can just get that first goal, our guys will get some confidence and kick on.”
San Antonio made three changes at half-time in an effort to take more control of the match, bringing on Jacques Francois, Victor Araujo and Greg Cochrane. That saw a slight change in shape with the team switching to a 4-4-2 diamond, slightly more attacking than the more flat formation they were playing in the first.
That change led San Antonio to earn more possessions than they had in the first half, but despite that they just could not create enough opportunities. The RGV FC defense was back in numbers for much of the half, denying San Antonio the chance to score.
Danny Garcia came on with 20 minutes to play and his first impact on the match was significant, finding space inside the box to force a corner. That corner was swung into the box and spread out for a shot that went agonizingly wide of goal.
Rio Grande Valley had few chances to score in the second half, but in the 77th minute a set-piece opportunity gave a glimmer of hope. Ford, again, denied the Toros a goal, leaping high to palm the ball away for a corner, which eventually went out for a clearing goal-kick.
Some nice ball movement saw San Antonio come close to a goal with six minutes to play as a corner was half cleared, allowing Milton Palacios to send a ball for Garcia, who controlled it down for Rafael Castillo to take a long shot which went just wide of goal.
Garcia showed off his footwork in the 90th minute to create space on the edge of the box for a powerful shot along the ground. But Brown was up to the task, diving at full stretch to make the save and keep the clean sheet intact.
San Antonio will face off against Rio Grande Valley again on Saturday, June 4 at The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley Soccer Complex.
Top image: Carlos Alvarez of San Antonio FC (center) moments after a header during the first half of a USL soccer match with Rio Grande Valley FC Toros on Wednesday at Toyota Field. Photo by Darren Abate for USL.