A record crowd of 8,466 filled Toyota Field Saturday night when San Antonio FC returned home for their first ever home league match against Swope Park.
Taking on a strong Swope Park Rangers team was a big step up from their season opener against a struggling Seattle Sounders 2, and despite a strong performance, San Antonio was made to settle for a point as the match ended in a 1-1 draw.
The atmosphere was electric at Toyota Field.
“The crowd was fantastic … they never wavered for 90 minutes,” said San Antonio FC head coach Darren Powell. “The players appreciate that.”
Former Scorpion Kris Tyrpak, now with Swope Park Rangers, agreed about the crowd.
“It was different, very different,” he said. “The crowd was fantastic, the atmosphere has definitely changed, and I think for the better.”
It took barely over one minute for the opening goal to come after a horrific defensive lapse from San Antonio FC. Jason Johnson, back to defend a corner, took a heavy touch while attempting to clear, which saw the ball go loose in the box, allowing Daniel Salloi the simple finish.
“I don’t know if it was good or bad to score so early,” said Marc Dos Santos, ”because we kind of woke up a lion, but it’s better to be 1-0 up than 1-0 down.”
After conceding so early, San Antonio was determined to get back into the match, and they had their first real opportunity in the sixth minute. A good run up the wing allowed Bobby Moseley to play in Jason Johnson whose heavy touch let the ball fall out for Danny Garcia, who beat Jon Kempin, but could only find the side netting.
“I was happy with how the guys responded,” Powell said. “It’s hard to concede that early. The finishing will come.”
Possession remained with San Antonio FC as they kept running at goal, and just three minutes later they had a corner. That corner went deep to Stephen McCarthy, whose header found Carlos Alvarez for a shot, which was deflected, falling for Garcia, who again couldn’t find the net and just sent it across the face of goal.
A free-kick provided San Antonio FC with their best chance of the match so far in the 24th minute as Rafael Castillo stood over it. As expected, he drove straight to goal, 25 yards out, but Kempin easily dealt with the powerful effort.
The attack just kept coming from San Antonio FC and in the 26th minute Kempin was tested again as Johnson beat his man and ran into the box. His shot was hit well and low, but Kempin saved, parrying it away. With no San Antonio runners, the Swope Park defense easily cleared it.
On the half hour Johnson was at it again, making a run into the box to get on to the end of a nice ball into the box. Johnson managed an acrobatic shot to get the ball toward goal, but there was just too much on it as it floated over the bar.
Milton Palacios made a superb run up the right to give San Antonio FC a late chance in the half, which he cut back for Garcia, whose first touch was heavy, allowing Swope Park to clear. But that clearance was poor, falling to Carlos Alvarez, whose perfect through ball played in Garcia, who opened up the angle and easily sent it past the keeper to level the scores with two minutes left in the half.
The second half started almost perfectly for the hosts, as San Antonio FC worked for a corner, which allowed them to execute the set play routine. The ball went deep to McCarthy who attempted to get Garcia a chance, but it was just out of his reach.
At times San Antonio FC seemed reluctant to shoot, most clearly shown in the 50th minute, when the team put together four passes in the box. Moseley found Johnson, who should have shot, but laid off to Alvarez, who again opted to pass, setting up Garcia, but his shot went wide.
San Antonio FC should have had the lead just after the hour when Moseley played through Johnson, one-on-one with Kempin. That should have been a simple finish, but he put it right at the keeper, and with no one running on to the ball, Swope Park was able to take their time and clear.
After a quiet period, San Antonio FC again had a chance as the ball fell to Alvarez in space on the edge of the area. Alvarez had time to control, and turn on the ball, but his shot was just too powerful, going over the bar.
The lead should have gone to San Antonio FC in the 84th minute, when a free kick from Castillo was played in for McCarthy. But the Texas native overran it, the ball coming off his back-side, allowing Swope Park to clear only as far as Castillo, whose shot went too high and out of the stadium.
A corner gave San Antonio FC a golden opportunity in the final minute of the match as it went deep and found Manolo Sanchez. With 20 players in the box, there was little space and Sanchez’s effort was blocked, allowing Swope Park to clear and preserve the draw.
*Top image: San Antonio FC midfielder Daniel Garcia, top, scores on Swope Park Rangers goalkeeper Jon Kempin during the first half of a USL soccer game, Saturday, April 9, 2016, in San Antonio. Photo by Darren Abate/USL.