The San Francisco Deltas needed at least a draw against Puerto Rico FC to keep their titles hopes alive in their inaugural campaign.
They responded with their third consecutive clean sheet in a 2-0 win, extending their league unbeaten run to seven games. San Francisco must beat Miami FC in its final two contests to win the championship.
It’s a surprising spot for the Deltas considering they played their first-ever competitive match in late March.
“Coming in this season being an expansion team, our main objective was to make the playoffs, so we’re in that route at the moment” coach Marc Dos Santos said. “What’s happening between us and Miami right now is a bonus.”
San Francisco hasn’t allowed a goal in its last 299 minutes, a stretch forward Tommy Heinemann said has given the team stability during its run of form.
In particular, captain Nana Attakora has provided leadership at the back, according to Dos Santos.
“People call me defensive and say that I don’t like my teams to attack,” Dos Santos said. “But at the end of the day if you look at the top three teams in the NASL, it’s the three best defenses.”
In the 24th minute, forward Danny Cruz let a pass roll through his legs on the right wing, a move that faked out a defender and allowed him to burst down the sideline. His ensuing cross found Heinemann, who headed into the net.
It was the fourth straight game the Deltas notched the first goal.
“It’s always important to get the first goal,” Attakora said. “But I think when we’re getting goals now is starting to help us too. Whereas before we were missing some chances we need to put away, now we’re scoring early.”
While Puerto Rico threatened to equalize before halftime, San Francisco’s defense produced a pair of last-ditch stops.
Attakora lunged at full stretch to deflect a dangerous pass into the box, and goalkeeper Romuald Peiser came out to the edge of the box to make a low save ahead of the break.
After Heinemann glanced a header wide of the post in the 50th minute, he doubled San Francisco’s advantage with a curling left-footed effort from outside the area. He celebrated his fourth league finish of the campaign by running to the corner flag while windmilling his right arm around in circles.
Dos Santos attributed the striker’s positive performance to the competitive battle in training between him and forward Devon Sandoval, who came on as a late substitute.
Defender Bryan Burke kept San Francisco’s flawless performance intact when Puerto Rico broke forward in the 73rd minute, making a tackle as the visitors entered the box. And in the 86th minute, Puerto Rico forward Sidney Rivera’s lob over Peiser struck the post before getting cleared off the goal line.
“It’s a big three points overall for us,” Heinemann said. “We’ve seen it in this league the last several years … the playoff battle comes down to the last couple of weeks.”