San Antonio FC Conquers Austin FC in the First-Ever i-35 Derby
Not sure what it is about an underdog that makes us want them to win so bad. Now imagine said underdog is your hometown’s team. Imagine the team they’re up against stole their bid to play higher-level soccer…
Oh wait, we don’t have to imagine because that is exactly what we saw unfold in last night’s game as the MLS team, Austin FC, attempted to take on the USL team, San Antonio FC, at Toyota Field.
The stage was set when Mayor Ron Nirenburg ushered in the Croketeers with red smoke and flares looming in the background and with the SAFC flag in hand.
San Antonio came out with fire, vengeance, and fury. In the first 45 minutes, spectators witnessed a USL team completely dominate an MLS team. However, it didn’t last long as Austin FC started the second half with a bang after a goal from left winger, Diego Fagundo, 2 minutes into the second half.
The stands grew quiet and doubt began to spread across the stadium, but SAFC players stayed hard at work. Luckily, their work paid off with a late goal in the 82nd minute from Elliot Collier to equalize the game.
But wait! The drama did not end in the second half and was only epitomized in the final seconds as both Mitch Taintor and Diego Fagundez shared a mutual flop with the timing of professional synchronized swimmers.
A total of 7 yellow cards were distributed by the referee this game, but how many of those were warranted? While it was a physical game, the frustration from multiple yellow cards only piled on pressure and stopped play for both teams. 24 fouls were called against San Antonio and 11 against Austin. Could the stoppage in play be responsible for Austin’s inability to gain rhythm?
Elliot Collier’s equalizer was just enough to get SAFC an additional 30 minutes to prove their worth. With overtime being split into two 15-minute halves, the man of the match and SAFC outside back, Carter Manley, saved the day with a goal 6 minutes into the first overtime half.
Some of you may ask: was San Antonio FC that good or was Austin FC that bad? While Austin looked a little out of form in the first half, SAFC never once let up and their backline has proven to be a force to be reckoned with. Game standouts for San Antonio included Mitch Taintor, Justin Dhillon, Carter Manley, and Jordan Farr. All spectators can agree it was hard to ignore the fact that Austin FC struggled to execute in the final third. Austin FC has shown time and time again that if they don’t start the match strong, it could be anybody’s game. It is easy to say San Antonio’s i-35 neighbors stepped onto the field last night slightly over confident.
It was apparent that SAFC had to leave everything they had on the field to win the match as injuries began creeping up at the end of the game.
Elliot Collier played almost the entire last 10 minutes with what seemed to look like a strain in the groin. Justin Dhillon came off the pitch with five minutes left in overtime play with a strained calf. Soon after, Santiago Patino exited the pitch with what appeared to be a pulled hamstring, leaving the team down a player.
SAFC might as well have played down two players. To be able to dig that deep against a team like Austin FC must have required divine channeling from all players involved.
In the final 2 minutes of the game, Jordan Farr made a game-ending save. A failed shot attempt by Rodney Redes placed the ball right into Farr’s hands as he was pinned on the ground by another Austin FC player.
The stadium erupted in poetic justice for a bid we all knew should have belonged to San Antonio.
Mayor Ron shared his sentiments referencing David and Goliath after the final whistle:
The interesting concept about David and Goliath is that Goliath was never the better opponent as most people assume when referencing the tale. David was smaller and therefore more accurate and nimble with his stone-slinging craft. Goliath was a giant, unable to move with the same nimbleness and as the age-old saying goes, “the bigger they are, the harder they fall.”
San Antonio FC’s next matchup will be a regular-season away game against New Mexico United. Their next home game is Saturday, April 30th set to broadcast on Bally Southwest.
The real game we’re all waiting for is their next US Open cup match-up against another Texas foe, Houston Dynamo on May 10th. With a target on their back after upsetting Austin FC, let’s see if they can take down another solid MLS team.
- Katie Goodman