Both San Antonio FC and Oklahoma City Energy needed a win Sunday at Taft Stadium, but neither team found many opportunities. An improved defensive effort from San Antonio FC was somewhat successful as they picked up what could be a vital road point after a 1-1 draw.
After a tight start to the match, the hosts looked the more likely side after the 10th minute. But the San Antonio FC defense was determined to sit back and absorb the pressure that came to them, allowing them to clear.
One of those clearances nearly opened the scoring in the 13th minute, when the OKC Energy defense allowed the ball to bounce. That allowed Manolo Sanchez to steal possession from his defender, and then round the keeper, but he was forced to a tight angle and sent the chance in to the side netting.
That passage started an open period with the two teams fighting each counter with another counter to try and break through. But a mixture of wayward shooting and strong defense kept the match scoreless.
San Antonio looked to slow things down, in an effort to take more control of the match, as they have looked vulnerable against the counter. And it worked phenomenally well as San Antonio FC opened the scoring in the 18th minute.
With the ball out wide, Sanchez received support from Shawn Chin, and found him with a perfect part, splitting his two defenders. That gave Chin the space to cut the ball back to Danny Garcia who easily buried the chance, passing the ball past the keeper.
Some desperate defense from San Antonio FC kept them in front as a cross in to the box was punched out by Josh Ford. But that ball only went as far as Danni Konig who had time to control, and shoot with Ford stranded but Stephen McCarthy got back well and cleared the ball off of the line.
Now with the lead, San Antonio were able to focus more on a strong defensive performance, as Oklahoma City tried to get back in to the match. Energy were seeing much more of the ball, but with more San Antonio defenders back, they were struggling to really create clear cut opportunities.
McCarthy proved vital to San Antonio FC, as he consistently cleared crosses and blocked shots to keep his side in front. But a slip on the turf from McCarthy cost San Antonio FC dearly as Konig’s cut in on McCarthy forced him to slip, allowing Konig the space to run on goal, and finish, drawing back on level terms.
San Antonio FC went agonizingly close to restoring their lead with five minutes to play as a perfectly weighted cross found Chin. With the keeper slightly off his line, Chin looked to nod it over him, but he sent it over the bar, letting Oklahoma City off.
The second half started as an end-to-end affair, with OKC Energy first taking it to San Antonio FC, then failing to find the net. That then allowed San Antonio the chance to score, with a Castillo free-kick going in to the arms of the keeper. San Antonio kept possession from the clearance, and got the ball in to the box which saw Chin control the ball well, and then he set up Sanchez. But Sanchez’s shot was well saved by Cody Laurendi, who did very well to hold on to the ball, and not just parry it.
Ford had to be quick off his like in the 53rd minute as a through-ball from Sebastian Dalgaard found Coy Craft who beat the offside trap. That saw Craft through on goal, but Ford rushed off his line and blocked the shot well.
Just one minute later San Antonio FC tried an almost identical play as they looked to release Sanchez with a through-ball. Sanchez’s run was poorly timed, as he was easily caught offside, unable as the OKC Energy defense pushed forward at the right time.
OKC Energy was having plenty of the possession in the middle of the second half, but almost all of it was pointless, passing the ball around in midfield. The model that worked in the first half seemed to be abandoned as they looked to just send in long balls that didn’t trouble the San Antonio defense.
There was little creativity from either side in the second half, with both teams struggling to break out of a bogged down midfield. That made things difficult for both sides, and saw few chances through the second 45.
Oklahoma City Energy committed plenty of men forward in the final five minutes of the match, but it was too late to have an impact. The Energy couldn’t really create a clear enough opportunity to score as San Antonio held on for the draw.
Next Up: San Antonio FC will on in city team Corinthians FC SA in the Alamo Derby in the second round of the US Open Cup at Toyota, with the winner posed to earn a berth in the third round of the knock-out tournament in June. Tickets are available for that match at Ticketmaster.
*Top Image: Midfielder Manolo Sanchez (left) and Midfielder Carlos Alvarez (right) compete for the ball at a practice on April 6, 2016. Photo by Kathryn Boyd-Batstone