It was a tale of two halves on Saturday night as San Antonio FC (4-3-7) rode a youth movement to two second half goals in a thrilling 3-2 comeback victory over Reno 1868 FC (5-5-3) at Toyota Field in front of 7,467 very loud and enthusiastic fans. San Antonio Academy players Ethan Bryant and Jose Gallegos scored goals one minute apart in a whirlwind comeback that felt like a tidal wave ripping through the stadium. For Gallegos, who netted the match winner, it was his first ever professional goal in just his third league appearance with the senior team.
There was noteworthy youth happenings on the other side of the field too. Fifteen year old Reno 1868 FC Forward Cade Cowell became the second youngest player to score in USL Championship history when he gave his team a 2-0 lead in the 17'. And Reno Forward Corey Hertzog would score his 50th goal in USL Championship play when he netted the opening goal of the match.
After a mostly lifeless first half dominated by the visitors, San Antonio got an important goal from Ever Guzman in the 44' to give the much maligned team an air of hope going into halftime.
Said Manager Darren Powell after the match, “It wasn’t the best of starts by anybody’s standards and we are very disappointed with that. Ever (Guzman) got us back into the game and within striking distance right before the end of the half with a well-taken goal, and in the second half we wanted to make sure we were the aggressor and to try and come out to earn three points. I’m really proud of the resilience, the way they performed, and their commitment to doing the right things in terms of effort and actions. It was fantastic.”
Things could not have started much worse for San Antonio. Even after they seemed to catch a break before the match started, due to Reno leading scorer Brian Brown being absent on International duty with Jamaica. But it didn't translate to the field as Reno jumped out to a 1-0 in the 9' behind a Corey Hertzog goal that he chipped right over SAFC keeper Matt Cardone. Hertzog just happens to be Reno's number two scorer.
That was followed by Cowell's goal eight minutes later after a horrific giveaway by SAFC Defender Eby Ackon deep in his own end, and things were looking very bleak for SAFC. Things were so bad, San Antonio was struggling just to get the ball out of their own end and to the center line as Reno put on heavy high pressure throughout the opening 45 minutes.
San Antonio also couldn't capitalize on a free kick deep in Reno's penalty area after Reno keeper Matt Bersano was deemed to have played a back pass with his hands. On the ensuing free kick, SAFC Midfielder Jack Barmby struck the post.
Manager Darren Powell has taken heavy criticism from a frustrated fan base lately, but he made the most savvy move of the night when he inserted 17 year old Jose Gallegos into the game at Halftime. Gallegos was a huge part of changing the on-field energy in the match for San Antonio, and helping to ignite the SAFC attack. His powerful finish was the best one of the night, ripping a shot from the box and beating Bersano high and tight to the corner.
Before that, Ethan Bryant would hit the post from long range before finding his goal. On Bryant's scoring play, Bersano would get his hands on the ball, but couldn't control it. There was just enough momentum on the shot to get it over the goal line and even the game at two, setting up the Gallegos dramatics just one minute later.
After the game, Ethan Bryant waxed poetic about a special night for him and Gallegos and San Antonio. “It’s an awesome moment and one that I will remember for the rest of my life and the rest of my career. I am really happy for Jose, he deserves it. He is a hard-working player that I have known and played with for a long time, so to have that happen tonight is really special.”
Next up for San Antonio FC is another two match road trip starting at OKC Energy next weekend. San Antonio FC is still looking for their first road win of 2019.
Reno 1868 FC: 0-1, Corey Hertzog (Raul Mendiola assist) 9’
Reno 1868 FC: 0-2, Cade Cowell 17’
SAFC: 1-2, Ever Guzman (Kai Greene assist) 44’
SAFC: 2-2, Ethan Bryant 61’
SAFC: 3-2, Jose Gallegos (Jack Barmby assist) 62’
SAFC: Yellow Card (Ebenezer Ackon) 12’
Reno 1868 FC: Yellow Card (Will Seymore) 90’
TWEET OF THE NIGHT:
PHOTOS: DARREN ABATE/ INSTAGRAM: @PEAKACTION
IMAGES: SAN ANTONIO FC TWITTER