After having a perfect week, San Antonio FC solidified its playoff position with a 2-0 win against Saint Louis FC in Missouri on Saturday night. An early goal by Sebastien Thuriere paired with a strong goalkeeping performance by Matt Cardone made for a vital and third-consecutive win.
After Saint Louis dominated the opening minutes, San Antonio FC stunned the home fans when they opened the scoring in the 12th minute. Midfielder Thuriere, who was selected to play for the Haitian National Team next week, stole possession and unleashed a delicate chip, curling the ball over the keeper’s head and in to the back of the net.
In first half stoppage time a swift San Antonio counter attack doubled the lead as the team managed a three-on-three run. A pass was blocked, but only as far as San Antonio midfielder Rafael Castillo, who managed to chip the keeper perfectly, sending the ball across the face in to the top left corner of the goal making it 2-0 at halftime.
Saint Louis, sitting below San Antonio in the standings, came in to this match desperate to get their playoff hopes back on track. The hosts started the match well, challenging San Antonio from the very opening whistle.
Saint Louis nearly scored an opening goal in the fifth minute of the match. The ball was crossed in deep to Saint Louis forward Mike Ambersley, who was able to hit a powerful volley, only to be denied by a phenomenal save from San Antonio’s Cardone. On the resulting corner, Saint Louis fans thought they hit the lead when their defender James Musa headed the ball in to the goal, but the referee called a foul, letting San Antonio off.
After going behind, Saint Louis quickly went to find an equalizer and came agonizingly close just one minute later. Saint Louis forward Irvin Herrera was played clean through on goal, one-on-one with Cardone who again rescued his team with a stunning save.
San Antonio FC was close to doubling the lead in the 22nd minute when forward Franck Tayou took advantage of a defensive lapse that allowed him to round the keeper and easily finish. The referee, however, adjudged Tayou to have controlled the ball with his arm, and disallowed the goal.
Saint Louis continued its attacks and just after the half hour Herrera was set up again. He was played in by forward Jordan Roberts, but his shot couldn’t beat Cardone, who made a strong save, and with no Saint Louis player following up, San Antonio easily cleared.
The second half had a much more sedate start than the first, as San Antonio FC came out from the break a much stronger defensive side thanks to strong work from midfielder Cesar Elizondo, who got back to adding numbers in the defensive line.
A 54th minute free-kick from over 40 yards nearly gave San Antonio FC a third goal as a strong shot caught out Saint Louis. San Antonio midfielder Carlos Alvarez hit a dipping shot, which appeared to be fly over the bar, but then dropped like a stone at the last second, forcing a save from of the Saint Louis keeper.
With time running down, Saint Louis was forced to go bring in two more forwards, switching up to a front three in an effort to find more attacking play.
Some selfish play from Herrera cost Saint Louis in the 64th minute when he was played through on Cardone. Herrera chose to take a touch instead of passing – his touch was too heavy and allowed Cardone to gather possession.
Saint Louis kept pushing to find a goal, but Cardone excelled and made a save on a strong shot from defender Richard Dixon. On the resulting corner, the ball was played in to Saint Louis midfielder Vince Cicciarelli who got a header that beat Cardone, but only found the crossbar, allowing San Antonio to clear.
With five players out this match, San Antonio FC has seen enough of injuries this season. In the 76th minute there was fear of yet another injury when Cardone went up for a save and hit his head on the ground after his dive. The match was delayed while he was checked for a concussion, but he was able to remain on the pitch and in the game.
In stoppage time, Herrera sold a dive to the referee, earning a penalty for Saint Louis, but justice was done when Cardone made his second penalty save of the season to seal the 2-0 win. The win pushes San Antonio up to seventh place, solidifying its playoff chances, with the top eight going in to the postseason tournament.
Top image: San Antonio FC goalkeeper Matt Cardone stands during the national anthem at Toyota Field. Photo by Darren Abate for USL.
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