Arizona United earns point in hard-fought draw with Sacramento Republic FC

Arizona United goalkeeper Jordan Stagmiller makes a save on Sacramento Republic FC's Harry Williams (9) in the first half June 25, 2016 at Peoria Sports Complex in Peoria, Az. Photo by Michael Rincon/ArizonaUnited.com.
Arizona United goalkeeper Jordan Stagmiller makes a save on Sacramento Republic FC’s Harry Williams (9) in the first half June 25, 2016 at Peoria Sports Complex in Peoria, Az. Photo by Michael Rincon/ArizonaUnited.com.

Throughout the season teams encounter tough stretches of games, whether they can make it through them, defines their season.

Arizona United SC wrapped up its third game in a week with a 1-1 draw Saturday to Sacramento Republic FC. United had lead for most of the second half on a goal by Tyler Blackwood, but a late equalizer from Mackenzie Pridham only saw them earn a point.

“I thought we played well enough to win the game, but they are a good side so they kept going and they got something out of it at the end,” Arizona United head coach Frank Yallop said. “So I am disappointed we didn’t get three points tonight.”

Despite the draw, United took five out of a possible nine points from Sacramento, Rio Grande Valley FC, and Saint Louis FC, three of the top six teams in the league.

“I was looking at the schedule the other day, all the teams go through our tough runs, and I think we’ve just gone through that,” Arizona United forward Tyler Blackwood said. “And now that we have a chance to look at that and realize that the next few games we can win all of them. We treat a draw as a loss against one of the best teams in the league, and that shows where we at that we should be winning that game.”

The game did not produce a lot of action in the first half as both teams were trying to break each other down.

Blackwood was involved in United’s best chance of the half as he had a great run past two defenders and set up Long Tan, but goalkeeper Dominik Jakubek was off his line quickly to block.

Sacramento first chance came on a quick counter, but forward Danny Barrera shot straight at United keeper Jordan Stagmiller.

Sacramento’s best chance came in the 41st minute when midfielder Cameron Iwasa was played in and rounded Stagmiller, but his shot was cleared off the line by Blackwood.

The second half had a lot more action and United nearly took the lead when Luke Rooney played in Tan, but his sliding shot hit the post.

Five minutes later, United were rewarded for their pressure. Defender Peter Kelly’s cross into the box found Blackwood on the far post, who cut in beat Jakubek through the legs. It was Blackwood’s third goal in his last three games.

“It is always nice to be in form,” Blackwood said. “It is always good to be scoring but I’d rather be winning games.”

After the goal, Sacramento started to control more of the game and they went close with Pridham’s shot saved by Stagmiller in the 69th minute.

United nearly had another in the 79th minute, but Chris Cortez’s header was blocked behind and Rooney’s free kick was straight at Jakubek.

However, Sacramento was rewarded for its pressure as Pridham equalized after Barrera’s corner kick found him as Stagmiller tried to punch it clear, but didn’t get there in time.

“I thought it was a good delivery, they got across our guy and I decided just to go,” Stagmiller said.  “I was unlucky enough to get there, the guy made a good run, and finished it well.”

United will feel hard done by the draw, but they haven’t lost in their last four games and have looked much better overall of late.

“A few weeks ago we would have been jumping with joy for a point,” Blackwood said. “You see everyone sitting on the floor like we just lost the cup final and we just gained a point. I don’t want to say it’s gained a point, I want to say we’ve dropped two points.

“But that is a completely different mindset when you’re playing the top two, three teams in the league and you’re upset because you played them off the park then you know you’re in a good place.”

United will look to continue their run of play when they travel to Tulsa on Friday to take on Tulsa Roughnecks FC, who currently sit in last place.

“We are on our way to Tulsa, Friday, so we’ll have a regeneration day tomorrow (Sunday),” Yallop said. “We’ll just get the guys regrouped and get ready for the next game. We’ve done well in the last four games two wins and two ties. It could have been three but you can’t dwell on it, you’ve just got to look to the next game.”