Santiago Patino scored twice around a headed finish by Samuel Adeniran as San Antonio FC recorded a 3-1 victory over Louisville City FC to claim the 2022 USL Championship Final before a sellout crowd of 8,534 fans at Toyota Field in San Antonio, Texas on Sunday night.
Patino, named the game’s MVP, scored moments before the halftime break to put the visitors ahead before two goals six minutes apart staked the hosts to a three-goal lead with 20 minutes remaining.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Patino said. “We worked hard this season for this. I ‘m very happy to be able to win it with this team and this amazing group of guys.”
Brian Ownby scored in the 78th minute for the visitors, but San Antonio closed the door from there. It is undefeated in its last 46 games in which it has scored the opening goal over the past two seasons.
“It’s going to be a special memory I’ll never forget,” San Antonio head coach Alen Marcina said. “To be able to celebrate a championship in front of the best fans in the league, our fans here in San Antonio in our beautiful city, I’m just incredibly proud. Proud of everyone.
“From the game, we wanted to go against the best and Louisville is the best. They’ve proven it year after year. And to be fair, from start to finish, we were superior. Hats off to the Mentality Monsters. So proud of them. Louisville, heads held high, because they were fantastic all year. But I’m going to enjoy this moment.”
The hosts were handed a major opportunity in just the third minute when Patino was brought down just inside the penalty area by LouCity goalkeeper Danny Faundez, resulting in a penalty kick. Mitchell Taintor stepped up for San Antonio but pulled his left-footed shot wide of the right post.
San Antonio went close again in the 13th minute when Cristian Parano released Patino on a counterattack on the right, only for the Colombian’s driven low cross through the six-yard area being just out of the reach of Adeniran. A Texas native, Adeniran struck the post three minutes later with a hard shot from the top-left edge of the penalty area that crashed against the right post as the hosts continued to carry more attacking threat.
LouCity began to come into the game after sustaining pressure for the opening half-hour. Manny Perez looked dangerous on the right flank, but the visitors were unable to find a clear opening in the SAFC penalty area. Instead, San Antonio grabbed the lead in first half stoppage as for a second time on the night the hosts were awarded a penalty kick. LouCity’s Wes Charpie was whistled for a handball on a corner kick and Patino made no mistake, shooting into the right corner to give SAFC the lead.
“I’ve prepared the whole season for PKs,” Patino said. “I’m comfortable with taking PKs. I believe in myself, and I know I can do it.”
The visitors adjusted their structure at halftime, inserting Ownby off the bench as an extra attacker, and it almost immediately paid dividends. The veteran gained possession of a loose ball near the top of the penalty area and quickly fired a turning shot toward the bottom-left corner that SAFC goalkeeper Jordan Farr just kept out. The hosts continued to be dangerous on the break, though, and Adeniran forced a big save by Faundez as he got a forearm to the shot from the left and bounced the ball over the crossbar.
The 6-4 Adeniran continued to prove a handful when San Antonio turned over possession and went close on the hour-mark as he held off a defender but shot just wide of the left post. Four minutes later, his goal arrived as a free kick from the right was delivered into the left side of the penalty area, headed across goal by Taintor, where Adeniran rose highest to loop his header into the top-right corner of the net.
Patiño added his second of the night – and fifth of the postseason – in the 70th minute on the move of the night. Parano broke through two defenders in his own half before releasing Abu down the left, from where the Ghanaian strode forward and centered for n, who finished low from the center of the penalty area.
“In my mind, I’m ruthless,” Patino said. “Alen Marcina changed my mind. Anything I have, I put it in.”
LouCity pulled a goal back with 12 minutes to go when Farr was unable to handle a looping cross by Amadou Dia cleanly in the center of the penalty area, allowing the ball to fall to Ownby for a calm finish over the defenders covering on the goal line. There was no way back for the visitors, however, as San Antonio saw out its victory, remaining on the front foot as often as it could to close out its first title.
“This has been 20 years in the making with when I started playing soccer,” Taintor said. “It’s pretty emotional. I love this city, I love this team, I love the guys. I’m just really grateful. I’m really grateful for my fiancé, too, because last year when I got sent down [loaner?], she encouraged me to go. I left her at home. And this year she not only encouraged me to come to San Antonio, but she’s chasing the dream with me living here. This is all for her and my family.
“It’s just an amazing night. The game didn’t start how I wanted it to with the worst penalty kick I’ve ever taken in my entire life, but that’s part of being a Mentality Monster. It’s getting back up when you’re down. I caused the penalty kick and then had the assists, so life is good. I’m just so happy for everyone here. It’s just been an amazing night. I’m on top of the world.”