Story by Gabe Zitrin. Photos by Nap Ba here!
On a clear and cloudless afternoon in Golden Gate Park, a tenacious but tired San Francisco City Football Club dropped a 2-0 result to visiting Central Pacific Division champions Fresno Fuego. Playing a full 90 minutes for the second straight day after yesterday’s hard-fought victory over Las Vegas Mobsters, City managed a number of scoring chances but couldn’t put any in the back of the net as they were officially eliminated from playoff contention in their first Premier Development League season.
Fresno, spurred on by the rare fan contingent that can rival the volume and passion of City’s Northside supporters, held much of the early possession, and didn’t waste time turning that possession into a lead. In his first appearance for the Fuego, forward Nick Moon made a deft move past City’s Ben Brewster into the City box and powered a quick shot low past City goalkeeper Andrew Epstein to give Fresno the lead.
They nearly surrendered it a few minutes later, after an unfortunate slip on the turf by defender Sergi Nus along the sideline put City’s Johannes Demarzi in on goal. Demarzi, fresh off a quality performance the previous day, worked himself a shot as the defense recovered, but couldn’t find a way around goalkeeper Augustin Rey.
City pressed for an equalizer and were barely denied one in the 37th minute by Rey’s quick reflexes and an organized defense. Brewster headed low off a corner kick but the ball was cleared off the line, and his follow-up shot was saved as well. City were hardly discouraged and managed another strong chance just a minute later, as Demarzi’s through-ball gave Ashley Watson a chance to fire from the left channel, but the midfielder’s shot went well wide.
Three minutes from halftime, Moon came remarkably close to his second of the day as he spotted Epstein off his line and fired off the City crossbar from 30 yards. Epstein denied Moon on the stroke of halftime from point-blank range after a nifty buildup started by Fresno talisman Milton Blanco, and the score at the break remained 1-0 to the visitors.
Watson had the first solid chance after the break, as he took the long pass on a City counterattack and worked himself a chance with his left foot from the top of the box, missing the top corner by inches. City came agonizingly close once more in the 70th minute as Demarzi took a cross and headed towards the back post, and the ball barely missed both the post and the foot of onrushing teammate Christian De Luna.
But it was Fresno that grabbed the game’s crucial second goal on 75 minutes through the brilliant work of Alvaro Nogales. The winger played a smart ball back to himself on the left side to shake City substitute Bryce Marion, and curled a powerful shot around the diving Epstein and into the far corner.
City manager Paddy Coyne responded with four simultaneous substitutions (PDL teams are allowed six per game), but the team’s mountain was too high to climb on tired legs, and Fresno were able to close out the game without conceding a goal to continue on a high note as the playoffs loom.
Prior to the game, the San Francisco Nighthawks and Fresno Fuego Ladies played on the same field to a 1-1 draw.
Man of the Match: Andrew Epstein
Would Fight Just as Hard if it Were 15-0 Award: Johannes Demarzi
Best Response to Getting Thwacked in the Face Award: Dylan Murphy
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