Getting back-to-back wins does a lot for a team’s confidence, and so does holding the third-best scoring team in the league to a single goal.
Goals from Tyler Blackwood and Long Tan, and a sharp defensive performance helped Arizona United SC defeat Saint Louis FC 2-1 Saturday night.
“The most important thing in this league is getting points,” said Arizona United head coach Frank Yallop. “I thought we deserved the win tonight, I thought we played pretty well most of the game and in hot conditions. We could have scored more than two goals tonight, but it was good to get the win.”
United started off the game well by pressing Saint Louis and were rewarded in the 9th minute. Luke Rooney intercepted a pass in the midfield and slipped in Blackwood who placed the ball in the bottom corner to give United a 1-0 lead.
Blackwood said that getting back forward Chris Cortez has been a key for the offense starting to find its rhythm.
“I think one of the big things was getting Chris Cortez back, he’s been injured for a while with a hamstring, but he’s the kind of player that when he gets the ball you can gamble off him because you know he’s going to be a player and deliver. So it was big getting him back.”
Saint Louis mounted some pressure after the goal though with forward Irvin Herrera looking dangerous on the left hand side. They were almost rewarded for their pressure from a set piece, but Chad Bond’s free kick crashed off the crossbar. Minutes later Herrera cut inside on the left but shot straight at goalkeeper Jordan Stagmiller.
United applied some of their own pressure with Tan being denied with a last ditch tackle by defender AJ Cochran and Rooney being denied by Saint Louis keeper Mark Pais after being set up by Blackwood.
United started off the 2nd half the better team with Tan skying two good chances over the bar and Rooney and Blackwood being denied by Pais after a mad scramble in the box.
They were rewarded for their continuous pressure in the 59th minute when Tan was played in by Peter Kelly and he chipped Pais superbly. Yallop was full of praise for his front four after the game.
“We’ve moved Tyler around a little bit, Luke is in a comfortable position and Chris is in a nice position out wide,” Yallop said. “I like our front four, I think they are dangerous, we are dynamic, we are not predictable, which is a good thing sometimes. It showed tonight, I thought it was our best attacking display.”
Saint Louis almost struck back a few minutes after, but some good defending from Julian Ringhof and Uchenna Uzo thwarted their attacks. Minutes later Jamiel Hardware hit the top of the crossbar after being played in by James Musa.
In the 66th minute Minh Vu came on for Tan and made his Arizona United debut after being signed from FC Tucson earlier this month.
United came close to furthering their lead as Rooney’s shot from distance was blocked and Blackwood couldn’t get a head on Rooney’s cross moments later.
Meanwhile, United’s defense continued to play well and keep Saint Louis at bay, with Uzo and Ringhof leading the back four.
“We know that before these last two games, we were giving up easy goals out of the back,” Uzo said. “Between these last few games, with the coaches, we worked on 7-2s, 5-3s. We’ve tried with them [offense] having a man or two up, going 5 attackers vs. 3 defenders.
“We had to work on stopping higher numbers facing us,” Uzo said. ”When it came to the game, it just looked so much easier.”
Saint Louis ultimately managed to score in stoppage time as a poor backpass was mishandled by Stagmiller, leading to Jordan Roberts tapping home into an empty net.
Despite the goal, Uzo was full of praise for Stagmiller who has started in goal the last two games due to Carl Woszczynski’s injury.
“Jordan has stepped up fantastically, I was so surprised,” Uzo said. “He’s doing amazing, every long ball that goes behind the defense, he’s one step ahead of the forward. He’s made it so much easier for us at the back.”
United played their first of three games in seven days with a quick turnaround Wednesday June 22, on the road against Rio Grande Valley FC, followed by a home game next Saturday June 25, against Sacramento Republic FC.