The fans who braved the rainy weather at Toyota Field Wednesday night certainly got their money’s worth. San Antonio FC got its playoff hopes back on track with a 3-2 win over Arizona United FC.
The two teams played each other last Saturday, with San Antonio falling in a tight 1-0 loss. This time around, San Antonio FC attacked more and changed its play.
An injury sustained during warmups saw San Antonio goalkeeper Josh Ford replaced by Matt Cardone, and in the 13th minute, star defender Stephen McCarthy was forced from the field. McCarthy went off clutching his arm. After the match the club reported that McCarthy was sent to Methodist Stone Oak Hospital for scans.
San Antonio attempted to blow down the house of Arizona United early, and in the 20th minute they had a golden opportunity. A free-kick in a good position allowed regular San Antonio FC free-kick taker, midfielder Rafael Castillo, to take the shot. He curled his effort well, beating the wall but again Woszczynski was on top of his game, punching the ball over the bar to keep San Antonio scoreless.
After controlling much of the first half, San Antonio FC finally got the lead just after the half-hour. San Antonio midfielder Sebastien Thuriere fed the ball through to fellow midfielder Carlos Alvarez who was left with an easy finish on goal.
San Antonio FC striker Franck Tayou made the most of a rare start in the 43rd minute when he doubled San Antonio’s lead. Tayou cut inside to create space for himself and unleashed a powerful shot from the edge of the area which left the Arizona keeper with no chance.
Just when it looked like San Antonio would take a two goal lead into the half, a moment of magic from Arizona cut the lead in half. United midfielder Luke Rooney had space 30 yards from goal and hit an absolute rocket of a strike that hit the back of the net.
San Antonio almost opened the scoring just two minutes into the second half. The ball was played through to Alvarez who put the ball in the back of the net, only to be denied by an offside flag.
That didn’t get San Antonio FC down and the team continued to press, looking for an early goal to calm the nerves. If not for some stunning goalkeeping from Arizona’s Carl Woszczynski, who made several top quality saves in the opening minutes, the lead may have been even larger.
Just 11 minutes into the half, the team restored its two goal cushion. In a night of goals from distance, this one followed the trend as San Antonio striker Cesar Elizondo found space just outside the box and hit a powerful shot along the grass, across the face of goal and into the back of the net.
Just moments after San Antonio FC opened the scoring, Arizona United quickly had two back-to-back chances. Both came to striker Tyler Blackwood who was denied by a spectacular save from San Antonio goalkeeper Matt Cardone. The ball fell back to Blackwood, but Cardone made another fantastic save.
Cardone was having a stellar match and he made two spectacular saves again in the 63rd minute. It was Rooney with the chances again as Cardone made two strong saves before San Antonio defender Greg Cochrane got back and cleared the ball off the line.
The match faded throughout the second half, with San Antonio holding a two goal advantage and needing to secure the three points awarded for winning a match. That led San Antonio FC coach, Darren Powell, to use his bench well in an effort to keep those players in crucial positions fresh, while for Arizona, Rooney continued to be a constant threat.
With four minutes left to play in the game, Arizona United was given a chance to get back into the match when its defender, Uchenna Uzo, went down in the box. That gave Arizona a penalty which was dispatched by Rooney to set up a nervous finish for the San Antonio fans.
Arizona kept pushing late, but Cardone continued to have a stellar match, after getting handed the starting role. In the end it proved to be a starring role as he crucially kept Arizona United out to seal a valuable three points for San Antonio FC.
Top image: San Antonio FC striker Franck Tayou celebrates after scoring a goal against Arizona United FC. Photo by Darren Abate for USL.
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