SAFC match with OKC Energy ends in scoreless draw; RGV FC Ties; Texas MLS Recap

The results seem to be very predictable when San Antonio FC plays rivals OKC Energy.  Tough, hard fought and tactical defensive stalemates rule the day.  Saturday night’s match in Oklahoma was no different as SAFC and OKC Energy played to a scoreless draw, the third time this season matches between the two sides have ended in a tie.

There was very little statistically to separate SAFC and OKC Energy during this tight defensive struggle.  Both teams shared a total of five shots on target, demonstrating the dearth of opportunities allowed by the tight and organized defenses.  San Antonio had the best chance of the evening midway through the first half when Billy Forbes, alone against OKC goalkeeper Cody Laurendi, shot wide left after receiving a pass from Jamaican international Omar Gordon-playing his first minutes with SAFC Saturday.  OKC Energy came to life in the last 15 minutes and created a handful of good chances, but were unable to put anything past SAFC’s Diego Restrepo.  The SAFC goalkeeper secured his ninth shutout of the season (tied for the league lead) and lowered his goals against average to a league leading 0.62.

SAFC head coach Darren Powell discussed the difficult nature of games played between his side and OKC Energy in his post-game comments.  “OKC is a very tough place to play. The guys worked extremely hard to earn the point and earning a clean sheet on the road is a positive. Now our job is to prepare for a quick turnaround to play at home in front of our supporters, and we look forward to being home on Wednesday evening.”

San Antonio FC (11-2-9) remains in second place in the United Soccer League Western Conference, 10 points behind leaders Real Monarchs SLC.

The club is playing a stretch of three games in eight days.  SAFC returns to action on Wednesday, August 23 against Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 at Toyota Field and then hosts Portland Timbers 2 on Saturday, August 26.

RGVFC TIES WITH VANCOUVER WHITECAPS 2

A 70th minute goal from midfielder TJ Casner allowed Rio Grande Valley FC to come back from an early deficit to tie Vancouver 1-1 in Edinburg Saturday night.  RGV FC is now 7-10-6  on the season and sits in 12th place in the USL Western Conference, three points out of a playoff spot.

TEXAS MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER RECAP

The road was not kind to either Texas MLS team last weekend.  FC Dallas (FCD) continued its scoring slump in Kansas, losing 2-0 to Sporting Kansas City (SKC).   FCD has scored only 1 goal during a four-game winless streak.  The Houston Dynamo allowed two goals during a 15-minute stretch of the first half and, despite an early second half goal by midfielder Romell Quioto, were unable to overcome the early deficit in a 2-1 loss to Vancouver Whitecaps.  Houston, undefeated at home this year, dropped to 1-8-4 on the road in 2017.

The Dynamo are now tied for second place in the Western Conference with 37 points.  After the loss, FC Dallas dropped to 5th place, 5 points behind conference leaders SKC and only 2 points above the playoff line.  The third and final regular season “Texas Derby” between Dallas and Houston will take place Wednesday, August 23 in Frisco.  The first two matches ended in draws, so the winner of this game will earn the 2018 possession rights to El Capitan, a replica 18th century mountain howitzer cannon, which is awarded to the winner of the season series.

Midland-Odessa falls in NPSL Championship Game

Photo Credit: Mark Smith/NPSL.com

Elm City Express completed a story-book first-year in the NPSL when it defeated the Midland-Odessa FC Sockers 5-0 at Reese Stadium in New Haven, CT before an ecstatic crowd of 3,112 Saturday night.

Two goals apiece by All NPSL third team forward Tavoy Morgan and Quenton Swift led the Express to the victory. Morgan finished the playoffs with six goals and was selected as the Mitre Man of the Match.  The Sockers, playing under an extremely challenging set of circumstances, fell behind 2-0 at halftime and it remained close until late in the match when the quality of the Express side finally broke the game open.  Regardless of the challenges for the Sockers leading up to the match, the Express were deserved Champions.  In the Midland Reporter-Telegram game story (link below), Sockers head coach Matt Barnes talked about Elm City’s quality:  “Elm City is the best team we’ve seen in a long time,” Barnes said. “They’re a very good team.”

The Express, who joined USL on January 9 of this year, was founded by K2 Soccer USA, a sister company of K2 Soccer SA which owns and operates Clube Atlético Tubarão, which is based in the State of Santa Catarina in the southern part of Brazil.

The clubs first season was wildly successful.  A 9-1-2 regular season record resulted in the Atlantic Blue Conference Division championship and a #5 finish in the NPSL National Regular Season Power Rankings.  This was followed by five dominating postseason victories, including Saturday night’s Championship game.

The Sockers, who moved from the USL PDL to the NPSL this year, also had a tremendous season.  A 7-3-0 regular season record produced a plus-12 goal differential, which was the best in the Lonestar Conference.  Midland-Odessa then peaked at the right time and won 4 straight playoff games until the loss in the final.  The team overcame significant obstacles even to complete the regular season and defeated a number of playoff teams, including Detroit City FC in the semifinal round, with much more experienced players. Two players, midfielder Alex VonHolle and forward  Jamie O’Grady, received All NPSL recognition. For the second consecutive year, the Sockers made the National semifinal round in its league and also secured a place in the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup competition. Coach Matt Barnes, his staff and the roster of players that stuck to the end should be commended for a season to remember.

For Midland-Odessa to even put a team on the field for the Championship game was remarkable.  It accomplishes little to go over the issues again.  At least, in its worldwide search for eligible players, the team was able to find a real goalkeeper before Saturday night!  In any event, the links to the game stories below talk in detail about the sequence of events last week that produced the roster that played in the Championship game if any readers are interested.

If college players will continue to play a key role in league rosters going forward, it would seem to be in the NPSL’s best interest to find a way to finish future seasons before the NCAA mandated dates for eligibility kicks in. A repeat of what happened to the Sockers this year would be a shame, both for any future team involved and especially the credibility of the league.

Match Stories:

NPSL Website:

http://www.npsl.com/news_article/show/822866?referrer_id=1510764

Odessa American:

http://www.oaoa.com/sports/local/franchise/article_871530fc-7fdc-11e7-8c5b-9353cb13e9de.html

Midland Reporter-Telegram:

http://www.mrt.com/sports/article/NPSL-Short-handed-MOFC-falls-to-Elm-City-in-11814720.php

San Antonio FC Suffers Second Loss of Season

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Billy Forbes at Toyota Field earlier this year

San Antonio FC (SAFC) suffered only its second United Soccer League (USL) regular season loss of the year when it fell 2-0 to Reno 1836 in Nevada last Saturday night.

Reno scored a goal in each half to secure the victory and move to within 5 points of SAFC in what is becoming an increasingly tight playoff race in the Western Conference.  Luis Felipe Fernandes scored first in the 25th minute during a sequence of play that began with a corner kick.  After SAFC goalkeeper Diego Restrepo made the initial save on the set piece, the defense was unable to clear the ball out of the box and Felipe took advantage to score the opening goal.  The second goal came after a bad giveaway by Restrepo in the 70th minute.  Restrepo, playing well off his line as he frequently does, attempted to clear the ball, but ended up passing it straight to Reno forward Brian Brown who rounded the goalkeeper and walked in for the easiest goal he may have scored in his life.

SAFC had a chance to get back into the match in the 82nd minute when forward Cesar Elizondo was brought down in the box.  Billy Forbes smashed the resulting penalty off the crossbar and this was the last good opportunity of the evening for San Antonio.

After the game, defender Ben Newnam rued the mistakes made by SAFC that led to the goals: “I think we played well in the first half. We kind of shot ourselves in the foot on both goals, we made mistakes and we just need to start putting away our opportunities. If we score first we’re on the front foot and it’s a different game. Now we have to bounce back.”

One interesting side note on the evening was the referee issuing seven yellow cards to SAFC. Home side Reno 1836 had none, despite conceding roughly the same number of fouls as San Antonio.

SAFC (11-2-8, 41 points) remains in second place, but fell further behind conference leaders Real Monarchs SLC who won at home Saturday night.  San Antonio FC will return to USL action on Saturday, August 19 as they travel to face Oklahoma City Energy FC for the third matchup between the two sides this season.

Midland-Odessa FC Advances to NPSL Championship Game

Game action at Keyworth Stadium Saturday night: (Photo Credit: Fletcher Sharpe/NPSL.com)

Overcoming obstacles seems to be in the DNA of the Midland-Odessa FC (MOFC) Sockers. Saturday night in Hamtramck, Michigan the Sockers silenced a large and raucous announced crowd of 7,533 at Keyworth stadium by defeating Detroit City FC (DCFC) 0-0 (4-2 on penalties) when Elliott Bentley converted in the fifth round of the shootout.

The Sockers now advance to the NPSL Championship game against Elm City Express this Saturday at Reese Stadium on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

The game had ebbs and flows as happens in many playoff games. Newspaper stories below discuss the chances both teams had throughout the match.  During regulation, the Sockers outshot Detroit City 18-8 and DCFC’s goalkeeper, former Houston Dynamo Academy player, Fernando Pina was forced to make 10 saves.  The Sockers had the better chances in the first half, both teams dueled in the second half and Detroit City was unfortunate to not win in added extra-time, hitting the woodwork twice and having a ball cleared off the line.

In the 3rd minute of the first overtime, DCFC had two excellent opportunities to score off a corner-kick.  The first clanked off the post and the follow on was cleared off the line by Socker’s forward Andrew Moullin.  Late in the second overtime, former Major League Soccer defender Greg Janicki smashed a header off the crossbar during a run of play that began with a DCFC corner-kick.

Penalty shootouts and the word “crap-shoot” seem to always go together and this was no different.  MOFC converted 4 of 5 penalty chances (Alvaro Rubio, Andrew Moullin, Isaac Sanchez and Bentley) and goalkeeper Braulio Linares-Ortiz saved two of the Detroit City penalties.  The Socker’s Jamie O’Grady could have ended the shoot-out a round earlier, but was unlucky as his penalty hit the crossbar.

In the Detroit News game story by Larry O’Connor, Sockers head coach Matt Barnes talked about the changes in momentum as the game progressed:

“It was an interesting match because I thought we were clearly the better team in regulation,” Midland-Odessa coach Matt Barnes said. “We weren’t sweating much. We created a lot. Our game plan was really solid. I just thought we should have put the ball in early in the first half.  In overtime, I thought they were better than us. We dodged a couple of bullets in overtime.”

In the same article, Detroit City FC coach Ben Pirmann only seemed to quibble with who controlled the game in the second half:  “In the last 75 minutes we really took it to them”.

Both teams had obstacles to overcome.  Le Rouge, Detroit City’s nickname, played without any of its NCAA Division 1 players, including Tyrone Mondi, the hero of last weeks win over AFC Ann Arbor that allowed Detroit City to progress to the semifinals. The Sockers obstacles are at a different level however.  MOFC has been playing with 16 players for the last two weeks and according to the teams Twitter feed it is the youngest team in the NPSL. Midland-Odessa coach Jim Robbins discussed this in post-match comments to Fletcher Sharpe on npsl.com:  “Since the NPSL/NCAA cut off, we’ve lost 14 rotation players, so it has been tough, but to get to a semifinal in back-to-back years is a testament to this program.”

Primarily because of the excellent quality of Detroit FC’s streaming service, impressive fan support and social media strategy, Saturday’s game drew staggering live streaming numbers for a semi-professional soccer game. According to the Detroit News, the game drew 30,000 viewers from live stream and social media.  In a testament to the world-wide reach of the Internet, viewers from Northern Ireland made up more than 8% of the live stream audience Saturday.  Midland-Odessa soccer is now global!

One splash of cold water on the celebration came from MOFC’s Matt Barnes who told the Detroit News after the match that the NCAA might not let the remaining collegiate players take part in the NPSL final.  “We have to figure out that out with the league in a couple of days.”

Links to game stories:

NPSL

http://www.npsl.com/news_article/show/820930?referrer_id=1510764

Odessa American:

http://www.oaoa.com/sports/local/franchise/sockers/article_6e3118a6-7a5c-11e7-923d-d37abe06583a.html

Midland Reporter-Telegram:

http://www.mrt.com/sports/article/NPSL-MOFC-reaches-1st-national-title-game-after-11737220.php

Midland-Odessa CBS-7 segment (includes video of winning penalty):

http://www.cbs7.com/content/sports/Midland-Odessa-FC-advances-to-NPSL-Championship-438783273.html

You Tube of Penalty shoot-out from mlive.com:

Detroit News: 

SAFC Loses Lead Late-Ties Orange County 1-1

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Early second half action taken from the third level at Toyota Field

San Antonio-Despite having lost only one game in twenty matches this season, San Antonio FC (SAFC) has had a difficult time holding leads.  At Toyota Field on Saturday night, for the third consecutive home match, SAFC conceded a late goal and ended up drawing with Orange County SC (OCSC) 1-1.

Saturday night’s breakdown occurred in the 4th minute of Added Extra Time when SAFC midfielder Michael Reed fouled Orange County’s Gustavo Villalobos in the penalty area.  Shortly thereafter, half-time substitute Jerry Van Ewijk converted the penalty and SAFC was left to rue the dropped points yet again.  The locals have not lost at home, yet have frustratingly drawn 6 of the 12 matches played at Toyota Field this season.

SAFC had taken an early lead when midfielder Kris Tyrpak got on the end of a Greg Cochrane cross to beat OCSC goalkeeper Charlie Lyon at the far post to score his fifth of the season.  This goal was the fastest goal in SAFC history, coming officially at 1:34 into the match.

In post-game comments, San Antonio head coach Darren Powell addressed the unfortunate late goal.  “Tonight, in moments we had some really good spouts of play, good passages of play and great chances on goal. Obviously, we got the early goal, but then we were unable to press on and get the second one. That’s the case in the game of soccer when you’re playing a well-coached team that get a chance at the end in the winding moments of the game.”

The frustration he expressed came from the inability of San Antonio FC, despite multiple chances, to score the second goal after taking the early lead.  In the 17th minute, SAFC’s leading scorer Billy Forbes hit the near post with his shot, after an excellent pass from forward AJ Ajeekwa put him one-on-one with the goalkeeper.  In the 62nd minute Rafa Castillo, taking advantage of momentary disruption caused by multiple substitutions, created space and hit a long-range shot that crashed off the crossbar.  Finally, SAFC had four good chances during an attacking sequence in the 70th minute, including a ball that defender Sebastian Ibeagha skimmed off the top of the crossbar from a corner kick.

OCSC pressed late in the match and had excellent opportunities of its own, the most dangerous coming when midfielder Dusan Stevanovic found space 15 yards from goal and blasted a shot just over the SAFC goal.  The OCSC effort was rewarded when the late penalty was called, even if the 6,725 in attendance loudly expressed their collective opinion that it never should have been called in the first place.

San Antonio (11-1-8-41 points) remains in second place in the United Soccer League’s Western Conference, though did pick up a point on first place Real Monarchs SLC (15-3-3-48 points), losers Saturday night in Oklahoma City.

San Antonio FC will next play on Saturday, August 12 when it makes the first ever visit to Nevada to play Reno 1868 FC.

Texas Professional Soccer Weekly Preview

 

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You be the “Y” in this picture.

PREVIEWS FOR MLS WEEK 22 and USL WEEK 20:

Major League Soccer (MLS):

Real Salt Lake (RSL) (7-12-4-25 points-8th place) vs. (Houston Dynamo (9-7-6-33 points-3rd place)-Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, UT-9:00 p.m. CDT-Saturday, August 5, 2017.

  • Dynamo beat RSL 5-1 earlier in the season, but face a much different side with key players returning from international duty and injuries who weren’t available at the loss in Houston.
  • Houston is 2-6-4 playing RSL in Utah, but have won three straight against them overall.

https://www.mlssoccer.com/post/2017/08/03/real-salt-lake-vs-houston-dynamo-2017-mls-match-preview

Philadelphia Union (7-10-5-26 points-9th place East) vs. FC Dallas (9-4-7-34 points-2nd place West)-Talen Energy Stadium, Chester, PA-6:00 p.m. CDT-Saturday, August 5, 2017

  • FC Dallas will be shorthanded again this week.  Atiba Harris (yellow card accumulation), Carlos Gruezo (red card suspension) will miss the match.
  • Philadelphia has never beaten FC Dallas (0-5-4) in regular season MLS action.

Preview from Big D Soccer:

https://www.bigdsoccer.com/2017-season/2017/8/4/16094966/fc-dallas-vs-philadelphia-union-preview-tv-schedule-watch-online

United Soccer League (USL):

San Antonio FC (11-1-7-40 points-2nd place) vs. Orange County SC (7-5-4-25 points-9th place)-Toyota Field, San Antonio-7:30 p.m., Saturday, August 5, 2017

  • San Antonio FC signed Mexican-American forward Ever Guzman for the rest of the 2017 USL season, pending league and federation clearance. Guzman joins the club with 10-plus years as a professional in the first and second divisions of Mexico and provides another needed good choice up front.
  • Orange County is only one point out of a playoff spot despite having played anywhere between 2 and 5 less games than all the teams ahead of them in the standings.  It comes to San Antonio after a midweek loss to LA Galaxy 2. The team has played so few games because it has been waiting for the opening of a new stadium described in the article below:

http://www.ocregister.com/2017/07/17/irvines-great-park-sports-park-with-soccer-stadium-and-fields-tennis-and-volleyball-courts-opens-aug-5/

Game preview from the San Antonio FC website:

http://www.sanantoniofc.com/news_article/show/820389?referrer_id=2436046

Seattle Sounders 2 FC (S2) (7-12-2-23 points-10th place) vs. Rio Grande Valley FC (RGV FC) (6-10-4-22 points-12th place)-Starfire Sports Complex-Tukwila, WA-08:30 p.m. C.D.T.-Sunday, August 6, 2017

  • The Toros finish the three game Pacific Northwest trip in Seattle tonight.  A loss to Portland and midweek draw with Vancouver leave the RGV FC in a position where wins are becoming very important to keep hopes for a playoff spot alive.
  • Midfielder Jose Escalante was named as the winner of the USL Goal of the Week:

National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL):

Portland Thorns (7-4-4-25 points-3rd place) vs. Houston Dash (6-7-2-20 points-6th place)-Providence Park, Portland, OR-1:00 p.m. C.D.T

Article from Four Four Two on three possible explanations for the recent Houston Dash turnaround.  They are now only 8 points out of first place and have renewed playoff hopes:

  1.  Easier schedule recently (though Dash players avidly dispute this answer).
  2.  Game day lineup stability since head coach Omar Morales took over a few months ago
  3. US International Carli Lloyd returned from her loan to Manchester City FC.  This is maybe the best explanation. She is pretty good.

https://www.fourfourtwo.com/us/features/houston-dash-2017-nwsl-season-slow-start-turnaround-carli-lloyd?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_m_medium=t

Midland-Odessa Sockers FC advance to the NPSL National Semifinals

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Inter Nashville FC Twitter

The Midland-Odessa Sockers playoff run continued at Grande Communications Stadium in Midland when they defeated Inter Nashville FC 1-0 Saturday in front of more than 1,000 fans to advance to the national NPSL semifinal round.  This will be the second consecutive trip to the semifinal round for the Sockers (though in different leagues).

On a hot night in West Texas (see picture above) Zach Penner scored the game winner off an assist from Ricardo Palomino in the 71st minute for the only score of the match. Palomino received a pass just inside the Sockers attacking area and was able to run uncontested through the Inter Nashville defense.  Just before reaching the 18 yard box, Palomino threaded a perfectly weighted pass thorough four defenders to Penner, who received the ball with his back to goal, turned and blasted the shot past Nashville goalkeeper Hayden Coffman, who had no chance to stop what turned out to be the game winning goal.

The game was generally even with both sides having chances.  Inter Nashville hit the post midway through the first half, but otherwise the Sockers organized team defense and goalkeeper Braulio Linares-Ortiz kept the game scoreless until they were able to break through.

In the game article from Eric Blum in the Odessa American, Sockers head coach Matt Barnes talked about the challenge involved in making it to the semifinal round with a different roster than the one that went to the semifinal round last year:

“I don’t think people realize how hard this is to do in Midland. We don’t get returners ever. It’s a new group every year and for us to take a whole new group in a whole new league with no experience back to the final four — I’m so proud of these boys. It’s really emotional for me.”

The challenge was further complicated because, due to a variety of factors, the Sockers only have 16 remaining players on the roster.

The Sockers now travel to Hamtramck, Michigan to play Detroit City FC (DCFC) (13-3-2).  “Le Rouge” as they are known are one of the NPSL golden children because they are the only soccer team playing in one of the largest markets in the country and their large (6,400+ in attendance last night) and boisterous fan base. Detroit City rolled in early playoff games, scoring 5 goals twice against Dakota Fusion FC and Duluth FC (Friday night) before running into a local nemesis, AFC Ann Arbor Saturday night.

Detroit City’s playoff run also continued as a stoppage time goal allowed them to defeat Ann Arbor 3-2 to win the Midwest Region.  Playing the second game in two nights, Detroit City went up 2-0 in the first half on the higher seeded Ann Arbor, who had won the two previous meetings with Detroit City FC. Things were looking even better when Ann Arbor had a player sent off with a straight red card in the 66th minute.  Despite playing a man down, Ann Arbor scored twice to tie the game.  A second Ann Arbor player was ejected after picking up his second caution in the 90th minute. Then four minutes into stoppage time, Tyrone Mondi scored the game winner.

Detroit City FC game winner (amazing photo!) courtesy of DCFC photographer Jon DeBoer (@jondeboerphoto):

Detroit City FC will host its 2017 National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) National Semifinal against the Sockers at Keyworth Stadium in Hamtramck, Michigan this Saturday,-August 5.  Game time will be at 6:30 C.D.T.

Game Summary from Odessa American

http://www.oaoa.com/sports/local/franchise/sockers/article_a38d20ea-74d9-11e7-98ed-b780ca2a3b5a.html

Detroit City FC Game Summary from the Detroit Free Press (including link to game winner video):

http://www.freep.com/story/sports/2017/07/30/detroit-city-fc-afc-ann-arbor-npsl-national-semifinal/523326001/