Late drama gave San Antonio FC what could be a vital point as they managed a 1-1 draw against a strong LA Galaxy II side at a near empty Stub Hub Center. A late goal from Carlos Alvarez gave San Antonio’s first United Soccer League team the draw as he sent home the scraps from a free kick with one minute to play, as San Antonio recovered from a first half goal to Jack McBean.
Galaxy had a clear plan from the very beginning: to pass San Antonio to death and wear down their patience. That required plenty of patience from the San Antonio defense to not lose focus and give up easy chances.
When San Antonio did get forward they tended to follow a similar pattern to LA Galaxy II, looking too afraid to shoot. They passed it around instead. Notably when San Antonio did get in to a wide position, they opted not to take a cross, but rather cut it back, perhaps reflecting on a lack of confidence in the crossing.
In the 23rd minute there was a nervous moment for San Antonio when Ariel Lassiter went down in the box. It came after Stephen McCarthy slid in, from behind, to try and steal possession. Lassiter went down under the challenge, but the referee felt the challenge was fair, waving play on.
When Los Dos were not on the ball, they quickly pressed San Antonio to win back possession, this led to a very high pressing game from the hosts that forced plenty of turnovers.
The best chance for San Antonio in the first half came in the 38th minute when Danny Garcia did well to keep control of what looked like a lost cause. That allowed him to send the ball out wide to Milton Palacios, who cut the ball back for Carlos Alvarez who shot wide of goal.
One minute later Galaxy should have had the lead, when some nice, crisp passing gave the ball to Denzel Slager. Slager sent the ball across the ground, beating the San Antonio defense, and falling perfectly for Jack McBean, who inexplicably sent his effort wide.
But San Antonio FC did not heed the warning, as one minute later an almost identical play, but from the opposite side, gave Galaxy the lead. The ball was slid in by Josh Turnley, for McBean, and this time he made no mistake, scoring the simple tap-in to make it 1-0, which would remain the score at half-time.
The San Antonio bench was left irate in the 51st minute when Sebastien Thuriere launched a counter. That allowed Garcia to send a through ball for Jason Johnson, only for the Jamaican striker to be flagged offside, despite appearing behind the second last man.
Thuriere was making a nuisance of himself all night, and in the 56th minute created a good opportunity for San Antonio. The Haitian international snuck in and stole possession, setting up Garcia, who shot from distance, but the ball was easily saved by the keeper.
It could have been two in the 59th minute when more sharp passing from Los Angeles opened up space for Bradford Jamieson IV. Jamieson cut inside, creating the space for a shot from 20 yards out, but it went wide of goal, letting San Antonio off the hook.
The passing was really letting San Antonio down throughout the match, as they were trying to play Galaxy’s own game. Too often the short ball only went to a Galaxy player, or to a man easily covered by the its defense.
All of the chances for San Antonio were coming from distance, mainly through Garcia, and that was making life east for the Galaxy keeper. It was a testament to their defense, as San Antonio FC really couldn’t break them down for clear cut opportunities.
Only Josh Ford kept it 1-0 in the 70th minute when he managed a stunning point blank save on Slager. It was great work from the Galaxy striker, who twice beat Stephen McCarthy on the play, first beating his challenge, then cutting inside him to create the space.
The field at Stub Hub Center was frustrating San Antonio throughout the night as their players were consistently slipping over. That routinely killed opportunities for San Antonio, and was not an issue that Galaxy had, suggesting that they were more familiar with a pitch well watered before kick-off.
Manolo Sanchez created a good opportunity after he cut inside his man on the left in the 83rd minute. That allowed him to cut the ball back, finding Fejiro Okiomah who just couldn’t beat his man to the ball. Galaxy sent it out for a corner, which they got clear.
With one minute to play a free-kick from Rafael Castillo allowed San Antonio the opportunity to steal a point. His free-kick was sent deep, Galaxy failed to deal with it, allowing a header back in to the box, which Stephen McCarthy headed across for Carlos Alvarez to run on to and hit powerfully, down off the crossbar and in over the line for the late equalizer.
Top image: San Antonio FC’s Rafael Castillo and LA Galaxy II’s Jaime Villarreal approach a play during the game on Wednesday, April 13, 2016 in Carson, Calif. Photo courtesy of United Soccer League.