San Antonio FC may have started to turn their season around as they defeated the Orange County Blues FC at Toyota Field Thursday night, managing consecutive wins for the first time in club history. A memorable performance from forward Jacques Francois proved vital as San Antonio gained the 3-2 victory.
“Tonight’s game was a roller coaster of a match,” said San Antonio FC coach Darren Powell after the match. “I thought we started very well and we probably had a chance to get a second… we changed the shape a little bit, and that got us back into the game, and we wanted to press on a bit and get the win.”
Orange County was left frustrated in the fifth minute as they thought they had a penalty, but it was denied by the referee. It seemed there was little for Orange County to complain about as any contact was not unusual for a free-kick being sent into the box.
A poor clearance from the Blues put them in trouble as the ball went across the face of goal after the Orange County defense stole the ball away from San Antonio defender Fejiro Okiomah. The ball went across the face and allowed midfielder Carlos Alvarez to run onto it, but he sent his shot well over the bar.
A stunning piece of Francois footwork allowed him to beat three defenders, forcing Orange County keeper Brandon Miller to rush out. That allowed Francois to send the ball laterally for Michael Reed, who just snuck the ball under Miller to give San Antonio an early lead.
Unfortunately Francois’ next involvement was not quite as stellar, as a missed bicycle from San Antonio’s Stephen McCarthy set up Francois beautifully. With the defense all on McCarthy, Francois was left wide open, with the goal at his mercy, but somehow shot his effort well wide of goal.
It was a dominant first half from San Antonio FC as they maintained possession of the ball and took almost all of the shots. Orange County was unable to get a shot away until the 40th minute, yet, for all that domination San Antonio could not extend their lead.
Things were getting physical in the final ten minutes of the half, as the OC Blues’ frustrations seemed to boil to the surface. Meanwhile, San Antonio was going into their opponents a little over zealously and that gave Orange County their opening.
Orange County finally got into the match in the final five minutes of the first half, and in the 41st minute they found the equalizer after a corner was cleared out to OC midfielder Roy Meeus, who slammed the ball back powerfully, leaving San Antonio keeper Josh Ford with no chance. Orange County got the goal they scarcely deserved, making it 1-1 at half-time.
Orange County got a perfect start to the second half, as they stole possession and ran at goal, with midfielder Didier Crettenand on the ball. Crettenand looked up, and spotted Ford slightly off his line, just enough for the Orange County man to chip the ball over Ford and into the back of the net to give Orange County a surprising lead.
San Antonio responded quickly and from the kick-off they had a great goal opportunity as the ball was sent out wide. The low cross came in, but neither San Antonio’s Rafael Castillo, nor Francois were able to get the final touch on it and the OC Blues managed to clear the ball.
A mix of a great corner from Castillo and poor defending gave San Antonio FC a great chance to score in the 61st minute. The corner swung into the far post, allowing Okiomah to get off the back of his defender and head the ball, but he just could not get the header away with enough power, allowing Miller to save.
Facing pressure from a rising San Antonio FC, Orange County controlled the possession, and seemed to worry less about going for goals. That slowed down the match severely, starving San Antonio of the quick movement that they craved.
It should have been three for Orange County when midfielder Dusan Stevanovic made a great run down the right sideline. That allowed him to cross the ball into the box, finding fresh substitute Nikola Illich, but his first touch of the game went high and wide of goal.
San Antonio responded after a poor throw-in from Orange County handed them possession. San Antonio ran forward and Reed found the ball at his feet with space to shoot, but sent his effort agonizingly wide of goal.
The fans did not have to wait long for the equalizing goal, though, as Francois again used his footwork to leave Orange County players on the ground in his wake. That allowed him to square the ball for new forward Franck Tayou who was left with a simple finish to equalize the score.
“Jacques’ (Francois) energy is infectious, he had a great game tonight, he works hard, he’s a team player and he works hard,” said Powell after the match. “He’s learning and he really puts the effort in.”
Francois was not done, and he wanted to turn goal-scorer himself just one minute later as he again ran at the Orange County defense. That gave him the space for a shot at the edge of the area, but he was denied by a strong save.
San Antonio FC kept pushing and with ten minutes left to play they restored their lead, after a smart pass from Alvarez. That allowed defender Milton Palacios to beat the offside trap and run at goal, beating Miller with a powerful shot, low and out of his reach.
The win came from San Antonio FC changing their shape and formation to push on, something Powell said was planned.
“There’s always a plan, and the players know that, coaching is something that is our job and you’re thinking about it all day,” he said. “You always think of what is going to happen in those various scenarios.”
At the end of the match, Orange County could have salvaged a draw when midfielder Oriol Cortes managed to get space on the right side of the field. Cortes whipped in a cross, but it was too powerful and went out for a corner. Orange County brought the keeper up in the box for the final seconds, but the tactic didn’t work, giving San Antonio consecutive wins for the first time in their history.
Top image: San Antonio FC beat the Orange County Blues FC on Thursday, June 23, 2016, at Toyota Field in San Antonio, Texas. Photo by Darren Abate/USL.
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