Players from the Celtic Cowboys and the San Antonio Runners challenge for the ball in a 2019 US Open Cup qualifying match. Photo: Zach Smith
MORE: 2019 US Open Cup qualifying results/schedule
All Martin Togher and the Celtic Cowboys Premier team felt when the final whistle blew on Saturday was a sense of relief.
The Austin-based amateur team overcame a one-goal deficit with three second-half goals to beat the San Antonio Runner Soccer Club in Round 1 qualifying for the 2019 U.S. Open Cup Saturday afternoon at Onion Creek Soccer Complex.
“They had the better start, but our physicality kept us in the game,” Togher said. “Chris up top allowed us to transition quite well. We weren’t technically getting the ball on the ground in the first half and we were happy to be in it.”
The Cowboys’ Round 2 opponent is yet to be determined after the match between Bay Area Oilers FC and Leon FC was postponed twice due to flooded fields.
Rob Pratt scored the first goal of the game for San Antonio 15 minutes into the second half. But the Cowboys came back with two quick goals by Taylor Peoples and a PK by Chris Wright.
Samuel Jackson added a goal for good measure late in stoppage time.
“(The Celtic Cowboys) have a reputation for extremely physical and I prepared our team for that,” San Antonio Runners SC head coach Mason Rankin said. “Both teams scored off a PK, they score a lot off of corners and we’ve been working all week on getting ready.”
Players from the Celtic Cowboys and the San Antonio Runners challenge for a ball in the air in their 2019 US Open Cup qualifying match. Photo: Zach Smith
Rankin said his team was riding high on confidence coming in, having a few good performances in scrimmages against Celtic. This game was rescheduled from the week earlier and there were some of the Runners’ starters that missed out on the Open Cup tilt.
The UPSL version of the San Antonio Runners is a new team, made up of Sunday League players, players from the club and college teams in the San Antonio area and players that had their eligibility run out at school.
Now, their focus shifts to winning nationals. The Runners are undefeated at 4-0-0 and sits on top of the UPSL Central Conference Heart Division.
The first two Celtic goals in the second half came with five minutes of each other. San Antonio put on the pressure and had more chances from long range, but could never get closer than just inside the 18-yard box.
“In the second half, we showed a resolve that was excellent,” Togher said. “We battled. We kept on competing and things just went right for us. We were forcing mistakes on their part. (San Antonio) had had great possession in the second half, but they didn’t get behind our back line.”