Photo courtesy Darren Abate / San Antonio FC
SAN ANTONIO – When San Antonio FC’s Shawn Chin sustained a fracture to his right tibial plateau in the club’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup game against the Houston Dynamo in June, the expectation was the forward would be out for the remainder of the season.
On Saturday night, however, it was Chin’s first goal since his return from that injury that sent SAFC to the inside track for the Western Conference’s eighth and final place in the 2016 USL Playoffs after a 2-0 victory against Tulsa Roughnecks FC in front of 6,735 fans at Toyota Field.
“It feels good, I have no words,” Chin said after the game. “Thank you again to all the fans that came out and that have been supporting us all season. That one was for you, so thank you.”
San Antonio entered its inaugural home finale knowing victory would ensure its final game of the regular season had significance. Thanks to defeats for both Orange County Blues FC and Real Monarchs SLC on Saturday night, however, SAFC is now in position to clinch a place in the playoffs with a win next Saturday at Rio Grande Valley FC.
The victory certainly didn’t come easily, as the Roughnecks went blow for blow with San Antonio in the first half. But as has been somewhat the story of Tulsa’s season, when opportunity presented itself, it went begging. Roughnecks captain Sammy Ochoa could have given his side the lead in the 12th minute from the penalty spot, only for SAFC goalkeeper Matt Cardone to come up with another big save from 12 yards, his fourth this season.
“He has been solid since he stepped in for us,” said defender Ryan Roushandel. “It’s amazing. Having him back there is always nice. He’s a security blanket back there. He’s kind of grown into his role too, he’s talking a lot back there and that’s what’s most important for us.”
Cardone has been one of the players required to step up thanks to SAFC’s injury woes, but on Saturday the side saw few players find their way back into the action. Cesar Elizondo and Milton Palacio both made appearances as substitutes, while Chin’s fifth appearance since returning from injury netted his first goal since May 7.
“The players have really hung in there the past couple of weeks,” said SAFC Coach Darren Powell. “Different people have had to step up, and we’ve seen that. I’ve said it before, when somebody gets injured, it’s another player’s opportunity, and those guys have come on and done well and now we’ve got some of the guys returning to play, and that gives us more choices, more decisions, more players to pick from.”
Midseason addition Franck Tayou’s fifth goal of the season gave the rambunctious crowd reason to celebrate when he opened the scoring four minutes into the second half, his mini-bicycle kick finding the net off a corner kick. Chin’s goal with three minutes to go saw the entire crowd – and SAFC’s bench – breath far more easily, however, as he wrapped up the victory with a low finish from Carlos Alvarez’s centering pass.
Now, it’s onto Rio Grande Valley, where opportunity sits in San Antonio’s hands.
“We still have a job to do,” said Chin. “We take it day by day, we achieved our goal today; tomorrow we recover and prepare for RGV next week. But right now we celebrate our win and take it day by day.”