USL Rewind: San Antonio starts Cascadia tour with victory

A 2-1 defeat of Vancouver Whitecaps 2 pushed San Antonio FC atop the Western Conference standings and kicked off its three-game Northwest tour with the right result.

USL 2017:
Scoreboard | Standings

Billy Forbes set up the first goal of the game for Aly Hassan midway through the first half, then stunned Whitecaps 2 – which had equalized in the 45th minute -- shortly after the second-half kickoff by heading in what proved to be the winning goal. Marco Bustos gave himself a sweet 21st birthday present when he scored for the home team.

Forbes ranks among the leading USL scorers with four goals and three assists, and SAFC is unbeaten at 4-0-1 heading into the second game of its Cascadia crusade Tuesday at Starfire Sports Complex against Sounders 2. The road swing concludes Friday against Timbers 2 at Providence Park. Vancouver (2-2-1, 7 points) is tied for sixth place.

“Road games are hard, and three games in seven days is super hard,” said defender Stephen McCarthy prior to the game at Thunderbird Stadium. “We have to come with the mentality that although these games may not go the way we want, we have to be ready to win. It’s going to be difficult but staying focused and staying together will be the only way to win these games.”

SAFC goalkeeper Diego Restrepo debuted for the club as an injury replacement in the 56th minute for starter Matt Cardone. Restrepo made two saves to help SAFC nail down the victory.

DROGBA WATCHES NEW TEAMMATES. Phoenix Rising FC put on an offensive show for recent signing Didier Drogba, who watched from the stands as Phoenix roared out to a 4-0 lead that dwindled into a 4-3 triumph over Swope Park Rangers at the final whistle.

A sold-out Phoenix Rising Soccer Complex crowd of 7,162 saw the home team score three goals within five minutes through Alessandro Riggi, Luke Rooney and Chris Cortez, and net again early in the second half with a Peter Ramage goal that proved to be the winner. But a game that seemed dormant burst to life when Kody Wakasa was sent off for committing a foul that denied an obvious goalscoring opportunity, and SPR rattled in three goals. Kevin Oliveira converted a penalty kick in the 79th minute and scored again in the 90th, then Christian Duke blasted home a shot from distance in stoppage time to inject some nervousness into the crowd for the final minutes.

The defeat ended the previously perfect record of SWP (3-1-0, 9 points) and also snapped a seven-game regular-season winning streak. Phoenix evened its record at 2-2-0 and announced Monday that head coach Frank Yallop, who was retained when the club changed ownership last fall, would resign and rejoin his family in Northern California, where Yallop worked during two stints as head coach of the San Jose Earthquakes.

Drogba will starting training this week.

“I want to train,” said Drogba, whose long career led him to play in MLS with Montreal the past two seasons. “I want to play. I haven’t been playing for almost five months, since last December, so I’ll need some time to get ready. But once I’m ready, I will push.”
 
BATTERY BUZZES PAST ROWDIES.
The Eastern Conference has a new leader. Charleston Battery jumped to the top of the heap by beating Tampa Bay, 3-2, at Al Lang Stadium.

With the victory, the Battery (4-1-0, 12 points) leapfrogged three teams, including Tampa Bay, into first place. Charleston battled back from a 1-0 deficit to take the lead and rather than playing for a tie after Tampa Bay equalized, struck a winner in the 89th minute.

The Rowdies had not allowed a goal in three previous home games and seemed in command when Joe Cole scored in the 34th minute, but Forrest Lasso’s goal tied the game six minutes later and in stoppage time Maikel Chang’s goal gave Charleston a 2-1 lead. Georgi Hristov re-tied the game in the 62nd minute by capitalizing on a goalkeeping error, but a fluffed clearance by Luke Boden allowed Tah Brian Anunga to notch the winner.

The loss dropped Tampa Bay (3-2-1, 10 points) into third place.
 
OTTAWA OPENS NEW ERA.
By moving from the NASL to the USL, Ottawa Fury not only joined a new league, it set up a new rivalry with provincial rival Toronto FC II. The Fury’s first home USL game was also the first Battle of Ontario, and produced a 0-0 tie in front of 6,502 fans at TD Place.

Gerardo Bruna hit the post with a penalty kick inside the final 10 minutes that would have won it for Fury FC, which despite being down to 10 men threatened twice more with attempts by Ryan Williams and Tucker Hume.  Ottawa’s Andrae Campbell saw the red card for punching an opponent in a scuffle that ensued after awarding of the penalty kick that Bruna banged against the post.

The game, though spirited, left both teams near the bottom of the Eastern Conference. TFC II, which registered its second straight shutout, is 13th at 1-2-2 (5 points), one place and one point ahead of Ottawa (1-2-1, 4 points).

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