SAN ANTONIO – First-half goals by Nathan Fogaca and Santiago Patino and a lockdown defensive display saw San Antonio FC take a 2-0 victory against San Diego Loyal SC on Friday night before 7,003 fans at Toyota Field in the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2021 USL Championship Playoffs, presented by TwinSpires.
San Antonio’s victory sends it into the Western Conference Semifinals, where it will either travel to face Phoenix Rising FC or host Rio Grande Valley FC next weekend.
The danger signs were there for the visitors early as they made their playoff debut. In just the third minute, San Antonio’s Marcus Epps twisted and turned to create an opening for a shot over the crossbar from 20 yards, and when the hosts turned over possession they sprang forward aggressively into the attacking third with Epps, Fogaca and others looking to set up one-on-one opportunities.
That directness in some measure led to the opening goal as a long pass upfield by goalkeeper Jordan Farr was flicked on, allowing Jose Gallegos to retrieve the second ball before he was brought down in the left channel. Former Ghanaian international Mohamed Abu teed up a beautifully delivered free kick angled toward the top of the six-yard area and Fogaca headed home into the top-left corner having made the right angle to his run into the penalty area.
Ninety seconds later the hosts almost added a second as in transition, Jose Gallegos sprang Fogaca forward near the halfway line into the left side where the Brazilian fired a near-post shot that was parried away by SD Loyal goalkeeper Austin Guerrero. Ten minutes later, though, San Antonio capitalized on another set piece as a designed delivery from a corner kick on the left by Abu found Mitchell Taintor just inside the top edge of the penalty area for a cushioned a header back to the center. A San Diego defender was unable to head clear, and instead the ball slipped into the path of Patino, who quickly controlled and tucked home from close range.
Having had possession without much incisiveness in the opening half-hour, SD Loyal threatened to pull a goal back with a clever combination of passes that sprang Augustine Williams into the left side of the penalty area 10 minutes before the break, but Farr came quickly off his line to thwart the danger. A minute later, disaster almost struck for the hosts when Alejandro Guido’s clipped cross from the left deflected off the head of the first defender and toward the far post, only for Mitchell Taintor to make a key intervention and head over.
Overall, though, it was the hosts that looked the more dangerous when they got chances in the final third. Patino could have grabbed his second of the night in the 38th minute but flicked his header off a delivery from the left narrowly over the crossbar before the hosts went to the break with a two-goal advantage.
SD Loyal looked for a way back into the game in the second half, but each time an avenue appeared to open, a San Antonio defender appeared to block the way. Williams was denied a similar chance to his effort in the first half as Taintor slid in to block his shot just past the hour-mark after a through-ball by Guido, and the patience the visitors showed on the ball allowed San Antonio to remain well structured defensively to clear when danger threatened.
The visitors created one last big chance as the game moved into stoppage time as Williams cut in behind the defense but was unable to keep his feet as he tried to round Farr as the goalkeeper came out to cut down the angle, resulting in the ball drifting behind the net. The late pressure wouldn’t result in a goal, however, as San Antonio advanced with its first postseason victory in four years.
USLChampionship.com Man of the Match
Mohammed Abu, San Antonio FC – The Ghanaian had a standout two-way performance in midfield, providing one assist and four key passes while winning 4 of 4 tackles and making 10 recoveries defensively and completing 30 of 33 passes.
SA – Nathan Fogaca (Mohammed Abu) 14’
SA – Santiago Patino 25’