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Western Conf. Notebook: Saint Louis Starts Fast, Pulls Even with Reno

By JOHN ARLIA -, 09/10/18, 2:43PM EDT


STLFC nears playoff places; RGVFC, SAFC score upset victories

FENTON, Mo. – Kyle Greig’s 12th goal of the season earned Saint Louis FC a 1-0 victory over Reno 1868 FC Saturday at Toyota Stadium – Saint Louis as he helped the home side get out of the blocks quickly in the 27th minute when he volleyed Austin Martz’s low cross past Reno goalkeeper J.T. Marcinkowski to open the scoring.

For the veteran forward, the goal that resulted was an ideal way to cap the strong start the side had focused on achieving going into what was an important playoff six-pointer for both sides.

“We’re always emphasizing the fast start especially at home,” Greig said after the match. “We really want to put them under pressure, try to be on the front foot, so fortunately we were able to do that again tonight and get a goal.”

That goal turned out to be all the offense STLFC would need to earn three key points in the race for the Western Conference as the hosts controlled the remainder of the contest, especially after 1868 FC was reduced to 10 men early in the second half when Jordan Murrell was sent off for a second yellow card.

Saint Louis is now just one point behind San Antonio FC and level with eighth-placed Reno on 42 points, but 1868 FC holds the advantage in goal differential and still has a game in hand.

“I think it was a fantastic performance and a fantastic result and I’m really pleased with all the players,” said STLFC Head Coach Anthony Pulis. “I thought we defended well and pressed in the right moments, and I’m disappointed honestly that we couldn’t make it two or three [goals]. It’s a huge three points for us, but now we have to recover and go for another against Real Monarchs SLC.”

SAN ANTONIO STINGS PHOENIX: After defeating Real Monarchs SLC earlier in the week, San Antonio FC earned its second straight victory over a top team in the Western Conference by coming from behind to defeat Phoenix Rising FC 3-2 Saturday at Toyota Field.

Chris Cortez headed the visitors into the lead from a corner kick in the 15th minute, but SAFC responded seven minutes later on a corner kick of their own with Cyprian Hedrick heading home Lance Laing’s inch-perfect delivery for the veteran defender's first professional. Ever Guzmán gave the home side the lead 12 minutes before halftime with a tidy finish, before Laing scored the eventual game-winner from the penalty spot five minutes after the break.

“I’m very happy to be contributing, but it’s all thanks to my teammates because they’re the reason that it’s happening,” Laing said. “I’m very fortunate to be in San Antonio.”

SAFC is equally fortunate to have Laing, who has registered a goal and an assist in each of his last three matches. The Jamaican’s influence in the middle of the park since joining on loan from FC Cincinnati in late August has helped San Antonio topple two top opponents and jump up to seventh place in the Western Conference.

“We’ve had a very difficult week against two great teams, so to see the effort that the team has put in in both games and the good soccer we played has been good to see,” SAFC Head Coach Darren Powell said. “We need to use it as a building block to keep getting better at several different things, but overall the boys fought to the end to grind out [a win].”

IWASA BAGS BAKER'S DOZEN: Cameron Iwasa’s 13th goal of the season helped Sacramento Republic FC take a comfortable 3-0 victory against Seattle Sounders FC 2 Saturday at Papa Murphy’s Park. 

Iwasa gave the hosts the lead in the 20th minute when he latched onto a through-ball from Villyan Bijev and slotted home coolly to set a new single-season scoring record for Republic FC.

“With Cam, we sometimes ask him to play positions he is unfamiliar with,” SRFC Head Coach Simon Elliott said. One of his great attributes is that he is always willing to take things on for the team. We don’t just want him to break the record; we want him to smash it.” 

Christian Eissele did all the scoring after the break, tapping in Bijev’s low cross in the 58th minute to double the lead before converting from the penalty spot six minutes later to seal the three points.

“It was a good win,” Eissele said. “I think we needed those three points. It is important for the team, it’s important for the club and it’s important for the standings, so it felt pretty good.”

With the victory, Sacramento narrowed the gap on Phoenix Rising FC and Real Monarchs SLC for third place in the Western Conference to just four points.

GRAND BUILDING BLOCK: Rio Grande Valley FC rallied from a halftime deficit to earn a 2-1 upset victory over Real Monarchs SLC on Saturday at H-E-B Park.

The hosts started brightly but spurned three great opportunities in the game’s first ten minutes to open the scoring. The Monarchs made RGVFC pay for their wastefulness as Konrad Plewa powered home a header from Sebastian Saucedo’s delivery in the 26th minute.

RGVFC Head Coach Gerson Echeverry decided to change his tactics at halftime, employing a high-press system that achieved its intended purposes – making the Monarchs uncomfortable and helping his team get back in the game.

“We changed our formation. Their outside backs were having too much time to come up. We put three forwards, Chuy Enriquez up with Carlos Small and Aldo Quintanilla on either side. I think they weren’t ready for the press at that time,” Echeverry said.

The move worked wonders as RGVFC leveled the contest with 19 minutes to play through Quintanilla on his return from injury before Todd Wharton fired a free kick into the right corner seven minutes later.

“It’s nice to score a goal on the return,” Quintanilla said. “There are things that happen throughout the season and you have to face them in the best way possible to return stronger and ready.” 

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