It was an enthralling soccer match in Sacramento on Saturday night, but neither side was happy with the result as San Antonio FC and Sacramento Republic played out a 1-1 draw at Bonney Field. A late penalty stole a point for Sacramento in a vital match for both teams playoff chances.

After starting the match well, San Antonio FC had the lead after 15 minutes through a mistake at the back from Sacramento Republic. Possession was given away by the hosts to San Antonio FC midfielder Sebastien Thuriere. That allowed Thuriere to run at goal, and see an effort saved by the keeper but the rebound fell nicely to San Antonio forward Cesar Elizondo, allowing him to bury the chance at the second time of asking.

After two minutes of stoppage time Sacramento Republic was handed a life-line to get back in to the match when San Antonio FC defender, Max Gunderson brought down his man in the box. That allowed Sacramento Republic midfielder Octavio Guzman took the shot which San Antonio’s goalkeeper Josh Ford, back from suspension, got his hands to but it bounced back off his save and in to the back of the net.

San Antonio FC came in with a changed shape, back to the successful midfield diamond after an underwhelming performance last week. That change pleased the fans and seemed to be paying dividends as the visitors had the bulk of the early possession.

A match between two playoff contenders will always be tight but San Antonio FC was determined to try and take charge of the match. The chances were there early as San Antonio FC showed their intent, but Sacramento’s defense was always up to the task. Whenever a San Antonio FC player had possession he was very quickly surrounded by Sacramento players.

For Sacramento, they were having a similar problem all throughout the first half, as they would often make strong runs down the wings, with midfielder Danny Barrera and defender James Kiffe looking dangerous. But that would be all the Republic had going forward, as they had little support in the box.

On the half-hour that changed as Sacramento had their best chance of the half as their forward Tommy Thompson (on loan from Major League Soccer’s San Jose Earthquakes) sent in a ball for strike partner Cameron Iwasa. That allowed Iwasa a clean shot at goal but his effort went just high, letting San Antonio off.

Sacramento just kept pushing and eight minutes later it was only Ford who kept his side in front. Thompson sent in a cross for defender Mike da Fonte but Ford did well to make a strong save, to keep it 1-0 for his side at half-time.

Knowing that Sacramento is a strong finishing side, San Antonio FC looked to focus on being sensible at the back in the second half. That involved looking to keep hold of the ball, but still going forward when the opportunity presented itself.

A blocked shot fell for San Antonio midfielder, Rafael Castillo, who had space 30 yards out for the first big chance of the half. Unfortunately for San Antonio FC, the ball was controlled with a handball in the build up killing off the play.

Strong defending from San Antonio’s defender, Stephen McCarthy kept his side in front as he did well to hold off his man. The Sacramento forward went down under the pressure leading to appeals from the crowd, but McCarthy kept it shoulder to shoulder, meaning no foul was awarded and the ball went out for a goal-kick.

Some strong footwork from Kiffe very nearly put Sacramento Republic back on level terms, as he created the space for a shot from 25 yards. Kiffe’s shot was powerful but it was matched by a strong save from Josh Ford, parrying it away well for his defense to clear.

Only Kiffe stopped San Antonio FC from doubling their lead on the hour mark as Elizondo was given acres of space. That allowed him to shoot which was saved, but the ball fell for fellow striker, Taylor Morgan, at a tight angle he shot but Kiffe ran the length of the field to slide in and block the shot, sending it out for a corner.

Sacramento was left frustrated in the 64th minute when they had space in the box with the ball at the feet of Republic defender Jeremy Hall. Hall turned and looked to send in a low cross but could only find a sea of San Antonio FC’s white jerseys, allowing them to easily clear.

The hosts were pushing hard through the final 20 minutes but San Antonio FC was defending strongly, often putting their bodies on the line. None more so than Milton Palacios who went down with an injury twice in five minutes, the second time prompted the paramedics on to the field and forced Palacios out of the match, seemingly unconscious.

With Sacramento’s desperation for a win, the physicality of the match really picked up with fouls flying in for both players. That lead to a lot of players running in on every challenge to pressure their opponents; but the referee managed the match well, quickly running in to stop tempers boiling over.

Top image: Miguel Salazar competes with a Sacramento Republic player for the ball.  Photo courtesy of United Soccer League.

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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...