Saint Louis FC scored a dramatic late winner after letting a two-goal lead slip against Sporting Kansas City II, one of San Antonio FC's new arrivals played a key role as it defeated OKC Energy FC, and Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC took its fifth victory in a row thanks to a late goal against Loudoun United FC in Saturday night’s action in the USL Championship.
FENTON, Mo. – Sam Fink scored in the sixth minute of second-half stoppage time to lift Saint Louis FC to a crucial victory for their playoff hopes against Sporting Kansas City II at West Community Stadium.
Having let a two-goal lead slip in the second half, time was running out for STLFC when it was awarded a free kick on the left side about 30 yards from the goal line. Todd Wharton delivered a curling delivery toward the center of the penalty area, and Fink rose highest to head into the right corner of the net to grab all three points for the hosts. With the win, STLFC moved within a point of Indy Eleven for second place in Group E ahead of their meeting next Wednesday night.
The sides had previously exchanged chances early as Saint Louis’ Wal Fall had a free kick saved in the fourth minute, while SKC II’s Enoch Mushagalusa dragged a shot wide of the left post from the right side of the penalty area a couple of minutes later. STLFC took the lead in the 12th minute, however, as Tyler Blackwood held possession in the left side of the penalty area after a cross from the right was half-cleared. He passed to Russell Cicerone, who sent a cross from the left edge of the penalty area to the back post, where Paris Gee headed back across goal to allow Blackwood to volley home into the right corner.
Fall almost added a second two minutes later when he stepped into a shot from 25 yards that bent toward the right corner but hit the post and rebounded away to safety. SKC II’s Tyler Freeman then threatened just before the half-hour mark with a rasping shot from 20 yards that John Berner kept out before Mushagalusa couldn’t find a teammate with his cross off the rebound.
Mushagalusa also threatened for the visitors a couple of minutes later but lashed his shot wide of the near post from the right side of the penalty area, and then in the 32nd minute went much closer to an equalizer as he broke in on a counterattack but sent his finish over an advancing Berner and off the crossbar.
Instead, STLFC doubled its lead two minutes before halftime as Cicerone picked up possession on the left after a long pass forward by Sam Fink, and Cicerone dribbled past a pair of defenders as he cut into the penalty area before firing low into the right corner.
SKC II pulled a goal back just before the hour-mark as the visitors held an attack in the Saint Louis end after Mason Leeth’s cross from the right was punched away by Berner. The ball came to Dillon Serna, who squared a pass to his right for Petar Cuic, and his shot clipped off the inside of the right post and found the net.
Sporting’s Ryan Fessler had a half-chance to level with 15 minutes to go but couldn’t get clean contact with his finish after a good layoff inside the penalty area by Isaiah LeFlore, and then Saint Louis FC almost added to its lead in the 85th minute as Kadeem Dacres was denied from point-blank range by SKC II goalkeeper Remi Prieur to keep it a one-goal game. That proved crucial a minute later as Sporting equalized as a free kick from the right by Dillon Serna was flicked on by Cuic, and the redirected back across goal by an STLFC defender to allow LeFlore to finish from close range.
But after Sporting appeared to have grabbed a point, Saint Louis returned to grab all three and keep its postseason hopes alive.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Russell Cicerone, Saint Louis FC – Cicerone scored once, completed 31 of 39 passes overall and 6 of 10 dribbles while also winning 12 of 19 duels in a strong all-around performance.
SAN ANTONIO – Jordan Perruzza scored his first two goals for San Antonio either side of halftime to lead the side to victory against Energy FC at Toyota Field, continuing the side’s pursuit of the best record in the Western Conference.
Both teams had chances to break the deadlock early, with the closest attempt coming from the visitors as Cordell Cato skipped past a defender in the right corner and found Brad Dunwell in the penalty area for a shot that was just blocked off target by SAFC defender Josh Yaro. San Antonio went close in the 31st minute as Perruzza stole possession in the right side of the penalty area and forced a one-handed save by OKC goalkeeper CJ Cochran, and seven minutes later Cochran was sharp again as he got down to deny a shot by Gonzalo Di Renzo.
In the final minute of the first half, however, Perruzza struck for the first time as he cut in from the right side and laced home a finish to the top-left corner of the net that caromed in off the underside of the crossbar, leaving Cochran little chance. Di Renzo then went close in stoppage time with a shot that flashed across the face of goal from a narrow angle on the left.
Energy FC also threatened inside the opening minute of the second half as Tucker Stephenson’s header off a free kick was parried away to safety by SAFC goalkeeper Matt Cardone, while Perruzza almost doubled SAFC’s lead a few minutes later only to put his header wide of the right post after a cross from the left had bounced nicely after Di Renzo’s looping delivery. The Canadian forward made no mistake in the 52nd minute, though, as after Jose Gallegos’ low cross from the left was deflected by an Energy FC defender, Perruzza met the ball with a powerful strike into the net from 12 yards.
San Antonio almost added a third as Cristian Parano sent a curling effort from 20 yards that was tipped over by Cochran with 20 minutes to go, while Luis Solignac fired over with four minutes to go after a good cut-back cross from the left side of the penalty area by Ignacio Bailone. OKC was unable to produce a late comeback, however, as SAFC closed out another three points.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Jordan Perruzza, San Antonio FC – Perruzza scored both goals for the hosts and threatened otherwise, recording seven shots and three on goal while completing 12 of 14 passes.
LEESBURG, Va. – The Hounds got a late goal from Albert Dikwa to continue its pursuit of the best record in the Eastern Conference with a win against Loudoun at Segra Field.
The hosts opened in positive fashion to put the Hounds on their heels early, but Pittsburgh almost took the lead just before the half-hour mark as an angled pass by Jordan Dover from just inside his own half on the right reached Robbie Mertz in the Loudoun penalty area. Mertz tried to redirect home a finish, but United goalkeeper Simon Lefebvre came up with the save.
Ropapa Mensah also forced a save from Lefebvre a minute later off a close-range chance, while Dikwa had a breakaway chance denied by a good piece of defending by Tyler Gabarra. Dikwa had another chance just past the hour-mark but was denied by a low save from Lefebvre after a good ball into the right side of the penalty area by Dover, and then nine minutes later fired a curling shot just high and wide of the top-right corner from the edge of the penalty area.
Loudoun had a chance to grab the lead with 16 minutes to go as Christian Sorto sent a curling free kick around the defensive wall, only for Danny Vitiello to swallow it up at the right post, but with nine minutes to go the Hounds found the breakthrough as Dikwa latched onto a pass by Steevan Dos Santos in behind the Loudoun back line, took a touch around the advancing Lefebvre in the right side of the penalty area and finished into the open net.
The Hounds almost added a second with two minutes remaining as Dos Santos picked out a pass to Anthony Velarde in space in the left side of the penalty area, only for his shot to go high and wide of the near post. Pittsburgh saw out the remaining minutes, though, to earn another important three points.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Albert Dikwa, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC – Dikwa scored the lone goal of the game, put two of his five shots overall on target, completed 17 of 25 passes and made five recoveries in the Hounds’ victory.