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SAFC Left in the Middle After Highs, Lows

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 07/05/18, 8:24AM EDT


Second consecutive draw edged hosts forward, but still outside playoff positions

San Antonio forward Alex Bruce celebrates his 77th-minute goal against OKC Energy FC that led to a 1-1 draw on Wednesday night. | Photo courtesy Darren Abate / San Antonio FC

SAN ANTONIO – As he entered the game in the 66th minute, the goal for San Antonio FC’s Alex Bruce was to try and make the difference in a scoreless game between the host at Toyota Field and the visiting OKC Energy FC.

Less than two minutes later, however, Energy FC took the lead on a sumptuous finish by Jose Barril, and the task for Bruce and his teammates was to try and rally against an opponent it had not defeated in seven previous meetings.

“I saw the time and tried to read the situation I was going into,” said Bruce after the game. “The mentality is to try to get anything and get on the end of things, so that’s what I did.”

The 19-year-old’s third goal of the season with 13 minutes to go more than matched that of Barril, with a curling finish to the top-right corner that left Energy FC goalkeeper Matt Van Oekel no chance serving as the jolt San Antonio needed to level the score.

“Alex is a good young man who is learning the profession, and every time he gets on the training field you know what you’re going to get from him, which is everything he has,” said SAFC Head Coach Darren Powell. “One thing he does have is that when he’s in front of goal, he makes sure he gets good contact on the ball, and he really did that tonight with that goal.”

The goal was a remarkable one, but then three minutes later came the flipside for the youngster, as a golden chance to put his side ahead was provided by Cesar Elizondo with a cross from the right. Bruce’s free header from inside the six-yard area caromed off the turf and over the crossbar, leaving the game deadlocked in a 1-1 draw that marked the sixth regular-season draw between the clubs in seven meetings.

With San Antonio in need of all three points as it battles to get into the Western Conference playoff positions, the moment was arguably symbolic of the club’s season so far, as the side slipped to 4-2-3 at Toyota Field this season.

“I think we showed a lot of character by coming back from being down a goal,” said SAFC goalkeeper Matt Cardone. “We still have a lot of areas that we can improve in, so that we don’t have to fight our way back into games and instead start off on the front foot.”

San Antonio had been the aggressor in the first half following thunderstorms that delayed kickoff by an hour, but while it outshot Energy FC 9-3 in the opening 45 minutes, only two chances ended up on goal, both long-range efforts by Omar Gordon and Ryan Roushandel that Van Oekel dealt with well. The side remains in the bottom quarter of the league in goals scored after Wednesday night’s game, sitting in 10th place in the Western Conference, as finishing has been an ongoing concern throughout the year.

SAFC almost found salvation in stoppage time as it pushed forward in search of a winner, but an offside flag ruled out Ever Guzman’s close-range finish. The strong crowd of 7,234 was left to wonder what might have been. 

San Antonio midfielder Mikey Lopez following the club's 1-1 draw with OKC Energy FC, its seventh draw in 16 regular-season games in 2018. | Photo courtesy Darren Abate / San Antonio FC

“When you go down a goal, you have to show that character and resilience to get back into the game,” said Powell. “I thought the guys showed that tonight with the way they fought to get the tying goal, and I thought we started to get on the front foot a little bit.”

With games in hand on those above them in the playoff positions, SAFC still has time to turn things around, but as the side’s current three-game winless streak attests, there’s nothing guaranteed to come from the additional games the side has on its playoff challengers. With a visit to fourth-place Orange County SC up next in league action on July 14 after this Sunday’s exhibition with Liga MX champions Santos Laguna, the road doesn’t get any easier from here. 

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