After a one-hour weather delay, San Antonio FC eventually got on the pitch to take on Tulsa Roughnecks FC in Tulsa on Sunday night. But the storm was not enough to stop San Antonio FC, as they recorded their third straight win, and get within striking distance of the playoffs with a 2-1 win.
With Tulsa having played on Friday night, they were a side that needed to rotate, but could not take anything too easy, sitting bottom of the league. Facing such a tight turn around, San Antonio FC came in as heavy favorites for this match.
San Antonio FC started the match well, controlling most of the match for the opening stages. But the Tulsa defense was determined, packing all 11 behind the ball at times, that made San Antonio FC have to work for an opening, passing the ball around on the edge of the pitch but struggling to find a goal against the goalkeeper who has made the most saves in the United Soccer League this season.
Alex Mangels made his first good save in the 14th minute as Carlos Alvarez managed some good footwork. Alvarez took a touch across his body to cut inside his defenders but his shot was well saved low by Mangels who smothered it.
When Tulsa attacked their chances were as toothless as San Antonio FC, as the San Antonio defense was also strong. That forced half-chances, which too often are shot wide of goal and allowed Josh Ford an easy save.
San Antonio FC was left frustrated in the 24th minute when Stephen McCarthy slid in for the ball and gave away a foul. The foul seemed to be an interesting call as McCarthy got only the ball and did not touch the player, topping it off McCarthy was very quickly shown a yellow card.
That seemed to kick the match’s physicality up a notch, as the challenges really started flying in, giving the referee plenty of work. But to the referee’s credit he kept the match under control, stopping the tensions going too far, and avoiding giving players any more unnecessary cards.
In the 35th minute San Antonio FC went agonizingly close to opening the scoring as Jason Johnson worked hard. He beat his defender and ran in to the box, and looked to round Mangels, but he shot agonizingly wide, Mangels just putting him off enough.
San Antonio FC made two changes at half-time in an effort to try and convert those chances in to goals. One of those changes was popular with the small contingent of San Antonio fans in Tulsa as Franck Tayou entered as the striker.
Sammy Ochoa had an embarrassing miss for Tulsa in the 53rd minute as he was passed the ball right in front at point blank range. With the goal at his mercy Ochoa somehow missed the goal, but it would not have mattered as the assistant raised the offside flag.
A typically impressive Rafael Castillo free-kick gave San Antonio FC the lead in the 56th minute, a position from which they’re yet to lose. Castillo’s ball in to the box was perfect for Michael Reed who got a glancing header to the ball, helping it pass the keeper for a deserved opening goal.
Three minutes later San Antonio continued, going for the match, to try and boost their goal difference further. Tayou was able to get a powerful shot away from outside the box, but it was well saved by Mangels.
Now with a lead, San Antonio FC was more willing to let Tulsa have possession, and San Antonio played much of the match in their own half. The team shifted to a more defensive formation, leaving Tayou isolated, in an effort to hold on to their lead and a vital three points.
In the 75th minute Tulsa had a big shout for a penalty when the ball deflected off of McCarthy, leading to appeals for a handball. McCarthy certainly deflected the ball with his elbow, but with his hands behind his back the referee thought it was unintentional despite McCarthy definitive lean in to the ball.
Two minutes later Tulsa had another golden opportunity as the San Antonio defense got pushed to the right side of the box. That allowed a chance on the opposite side but the shot went high and wide, letting San Antonio off the hook.
In the 80th minute Tayou continued his stunning form as he scored to all but seal the win for San Antonio. Tayou made a phenomenal run off the ball, allowing him to receive the bass, which he then smashed across the face of goal, with a shot much too powerful for Mangels to get to.
That encouraged San Antonio to shut up shop further, but with the Pakistan National Team captain, Kaleem, on the field the high press was working out. Kaleem was able to pressure the San Antonio defenders in to errors, but he could do little with it, lacking the support needed.
As the clock ticked into stoppage time Tulsa were able to pull a goal in to set up a tense finish in the match. An audacious shot deflected off McCarthy, which had Ford scrambling and bounced off the post, but Jasson Ramos Carpio reacted quickly and poked the ball in to the back of the net. That set up a tense final few minutes but San Antonio FC held on and got a vital win.
Top image: Michael Reed, #8 (left), scores San Antonio FC’s opening goal against Tulsa Roughnecks on Sunday. Photo courtesy of United Soccer League.