Photo courtesy Liza Rosales / Orange County SC
IRVINE, Calif. – San Antonio FC became the second team to earn a place in the 2017 USL Cup Playoffs with a 1-0 victory against Orange County SC on Wednesday night at Champions Soccer Stadium. Orange County had the better of the game early as Rodrigo Pacheco headed just over from a well-worked corner inside the opening 10 minutes, but the first big chance came to San Antonio as a great turn by Kris Trypak created space for a cross on the left that found Owayne Gordon at the near post, and his flicked header just eluded Cesar Elizondo at the back post just past the half-hour mark. Gordon then forced a good save by OCSC goalkeeper Charlie Lyon, and the Jamaican international fired over on the rebound. Elizondo almost gave SAFC the lead in the opening minute of the second half as he beat Walker Hume to a long ball forward, only to be well denied by Lyon. San Antonio hit the front in the 55th minute, however, as Ben Newnam’s free kick found the net as Lyon was frozen by a run to the top of the six-yard area by Sebastien Ibeagha to allow the delivery to find the net. Orange County almost answered through Carlos Alvarez, whose curling effort went just wide of the right post. Another curled effort by Alvarez was sipped over by Restrepo in the 70th minute, while Irvin Parra also forced a comfortable save with nine minutes to go. Zach Kobayashi had the final chance for Orange County in stoppage time, but Restrepo claimed to seal the victory and a trip to the postseason.
55’ – SA – Ben Newnam
Three Things That Matter:
1. San Antonio FC claimed the second berth in the 2017 USL Cup Playoffs and its first in club history with another stifling display that symbolized everything that has made the side a leading contender for silverware this season. SAFC had to absorb pressure regularly from an Orange County side that was looking to break into the top eight in the Western Conference, but emerged with its seventh 1-0 victory of the season to move within four points of Real Monarchs SLC at the top of the West’s standings to keep the pressure on the league-leaders.
2. Orange County had the upper hand in terms of possession and attacking threat in the opening half-hour, but as has been the fate for numerous San Antonio opponents this season was unable to find a decisive breakthrough. SAFC’s ability to close down passing and shooting lanes left Orange County with only one shot on goal in the opening half, and a tame one at that which was easily handled by goalkeeper Diego Restrepo. San Antonio has only lost twice this season, with Wednesday night’s first half an illustration of how it has managed that remarkable record.
3. While Orange County drove the play early, San Antonio found another gear and took control of the game as the first half concluded. Owayne Gordon should have given the visitors the lead just past the half-hour mark as he skied his rebound chance off his initial shot that was well-saved by OCSC goalkeeper Charlie Lyon. There might be some debate as to whether the goal when it arrived will be credited to Ben Newnam or Sebastien Ibeagha, but once it found the net it was an uphill struggle for Orange County from then on.
USLSoccer.com Man of the Match
Sebastien Ibeagha, San Antonio FC – Returning to the lineup after his suspension on Saturday night, Ibeagha put in a stellar defensive display with 12 clearances, and played a key role in the only goal of the game.
Orange County SC at Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 – September 17, 7 p.m. ET, Thunderbird Stadium
San Antonio FC at Swope Park Rangers – September 17, 5 p.m. ET, Children’s Mercy Victory Field