OKLAHOMA CITY – If a low-point in San Antonio FC’s season arrived two weeks ago in California, then claiming the club’s first victory in its history against OKC Energy FC on Saturday night at Taft Stadium to move into the playoff positions in the Western Conference certainly provided an exclamation point on what had been a remarkable turnaround over the previous eight days.
But as impressive as the club’s three-game winning streak that began with victory against Western Conference-leader Real Monarchs SLC last Saturday night has been, the team still believes there’s more to come as it looks to make a run up the standings in the second half of its season.
“After our match against Orange County we got together as a group and said that we needed to put things right, and we’ve done our talking on the pitch,” said midfielder Charlie Ward. “We could talk all day in the locker room, but we went out and got nine points in three games and we want to carry that into next Saturday, because we’re still not where we want to be.”
Ward was again one of the catalysts for San Antonio against Energy FC as the visitors rallied after a sumptuous free kick by Philip Rasmussen had put OKC ahead in the 58th minute. With San Antonio having failed to take victory in the seven previous regular-season meetings between the clubs, the precise finish from 20 yards could have been a deflating moment for the visitors.
Instead, it saw SAFC produce a resolute response that saw Conor Presley brought down for a penalty kick that Mikey Lopez coolly converted into the right corner of the net – sending Energy FC goalkeeper Bryan Byars the wrong way – before Ward’s cross from the left set up Ever Guzman for a close-range finish with nine minutes to go that proved the winner.
San Antonio FC's Ever Guzman celebrates with teammates after scoring what proved the winner against OKC Energy FC at Taft Stadium. | Photo courtesy Steven Christy / OKC Energy FC
Ward finished the night having completed all 65 of his passes while recording two key passes including his assist to earn plaudits following the game. Praise was also due for SAFC defenders Greg Cochrane and Cyprian Hedrick and Lopez, all of whom went the full 270 minutes over an eight-day stretch that could end up defining San Antonio’s season.
“This was a big result to earn nine points [in three matches] and put us on the right track,” said Hedrick, who recorded a team-high 20 clearances across the three games. “This was a difficult game for us, but we pulled through, and the most important is we were able to earn the three points and finish the week on a positive note.”
With the way the series had gone previously between the clubs – with Energy FC having eliminated San Antonio on its home turf in last year’s postseason in a penalty shootout – breaking the drought the club had experienced against one of its regional rivals was a fine way to end a key point of SAFC’s season.
“It’s great to come to OKC and earn our first victory against this good organization and a well-coached team,” said SAFC Head Coach Darren Powell. We’re pleased to earn the three points and to show the character that we did tonight to earn a win after going a goal down. … I have nothing but compliments to our players for their performance and application throughout the whole squad during the past week.”