A red card to Portland Timbers 2 helped San Antonio FC end their league scoreless streak but it wasn’t enough as they were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw against Portland Timbers 2 at Merlo Field. A late goal by Milton Palacios was San Antonio’s first in 429 minutes of league play, and sealed a vital point for San Antonio FC.

When the team sheets were revealed, there was a sign that things may not go San Antonio’s way, with a number of starters for Portland coming from the MLS team. Eight of the starting 11 for Portland Timbers 2 were down from the senior side, in an effort to gain fitness and form while the MLS was on a break for the Copa America.

It was an end-to-end start to the match, as the two sides looked to find an early goal that could give them control of the match. San Antonio would have the bulk of the very early possession but every parry from SAFC was met with a riposte from Portland Timbers 2.

Chris Klute was looking the most likely outlet for Portland as he took advantage of some lax defending on the San Antonio FC right hand side. That allowed him to regularly get in behind on the right but his final ball couldn’t find a team mate.

The San Antonio FC strikers were perhaps showing their lack of confidence in the 12th minute as Carlos Alvarez had space outside the box but seemed reluctant to take the shot. That saw him set up Jason Johnson who took a shot, which deflected off Alvarez to let Portland off the hook.

That lead to a good passage for San Antonio FC, and Johnson was part of a close play just one minute later. Johnson was able to get the ball out wide and then send the ball across the face, looking for Shawn Chin who just couldn’t do enough to create a shooting opportunity.

But disaster struck for San Antonio in the 15th minute as a corner from Portland Timbers 2 led to them opening the scoring. The ball was sent in to the box, and Carlos Alvarez attempted to head it clear but could only send it in to the back of his own net, and to make matters worse, Josh Ford was shown a yellow card for protesting after the goal. Ford felt he was obstructed, and replays suggested he may have a case, but it’s something that referees rarely call on corner kicks.

That saw San Antonio a little rattled, and saw Portland really take charge of the half from that point, but the San Antonio defense was looking determined. Portland did manage to create shooting opportunities, but some desperate defending, including a brave block from Sam McBride, kept them out.

San Antonio FC looked more in the match in the final 10 minutes of the half, but Portland was proving difficult to break down. The Timbers were shutting down the space rapidly, making it hard for San Antonio to even set up a shot, let alone take one.

A three on two gave San Antonio a golden chance in the 44th minute as Danny Garcia stole possession and ran down the pitch. He had Johnson and Chin in support, but opted to try and get the ball on to his preferred left foot, allowing Portland to close the space and block the shot, keeping it 1-0 at half-time.

San Antonio FC looked to press high in the early stages of the second half as they tried to rush the Portland defense in to errors. But Portland just about managed to deal with that pressure, before catching Garcia offside in the 49th minute when he seemed clean through.

Portland had their first chance of the half in the 51st minute when a cross was chipped in looking for Kharlton Belmar. But Josh Ford was quick off his line to parry the ball into the air and recollect the ball in a quality display of goalkeeping.

It was quickly becoming clear what T2 were looking to do when going forward as Belmar was the only target. The Timbers looked to play long balls to the strong front man to try to head down for team-mates running on, but the San Antonio defense was easily able to cut those efforts out.

Belmar continued to be a threat and in the 58th minute some good footwork very nearly saw him give the Timbers a two goal lead. After running down the left, he cut inside to create space for the shot which went just over the bar.

With only their second corner of the match, on the hour mark, Portland could well have doubled their lead if not for Ford. The corner found Trevor Morley perfectly, but Ford got to it well, and was able to hold on with the save after Morley’s free header.

San Antonio was spared by the woodwork in the 65th minute as Belmar’s initial cross was blocked, but fell back out to him. That saw Belmar set up Victor Arboleda who shot powerfully with Ford scrambling, but he could only find the crossbar, before sending the rebound wide.

A succession of corners from San Antonio FC in the 66th minute presented them their best chances of the match. But Portland was up to the task managing some strong, if at times desperate, defending to keep the visitors at bay.

Jacques Francois came on for San Antonio FC in the second half, and enlivened the San Antonio attack. Francois looked dangerous throughout the final half hour, with his footwork regularly having Portland defenders scrambling, but they were able to hold his opportunities out.

Some brave goalkeeping from Ford kept San Antonio FC in the match, and gave them a man advantage. Belmar was making a great run in to the box, but made a heavy touch, allowing Ford to dive out and get the ball. Belmar was also playing for the ball and accidentally caught Ford as well, leading to a foul, and a surprise red card, despite the contact seeming incidental.

That gave San Antonio a significant advantage and in the 87th minute the scoreless streak finally broke thanks to a corner kick. After 429 minutes of league play without a goal the corner was sent in to the box, and Milton Palacios shook off his marker to head home a vital goal for San Antonio’s season. But Portland were disciplined at the back and held out a fast finishing San Antonio FC to force San Antonio to settle for a point.


Top image: Danny Garcia goes for a header against a Portland Timbers 2 defender on Saturday, June 11, 2016. Image courtesy of San Antonio FC.

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Chris Hockman

Chris Hockman has been a freelance soccer journalist for over a decade, originally from Australia, Chris quickly started writing about soccer in San Antonio after moving to Texas in 2010. Chris is the...