Patriots fall in final minutes, lose chance at postseason play
Published: Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 13:05
The El Paso Patriots lost their chance to reach the USL (United Soccer Leagues) Premier Development League playoffs, after falling 1-0 in the 89th minute of their match against division rivals Austin Aztex July 8 at Patriots Stadium.
“We had to win–a loss or a draw at home weren’t going to be enough,” said Patriots head coach Hugo Sámano. “Now we have to play and win the two last games of the season.”
With playoff implications at stake, it was an intense game from the starting kickoff as both teams tried to monopolize possession of the ball.
In the 89th minute, defender Pablo Rodriguez became the villain of the game as he lost the ball inside the box to Aztex forward Callum Riley, who forced the goalie to come out of his position. Riley quickly passed the ball to Will Morse, who simply needed to touch the ball into the net for the lone score of the game.
The Patriots started off strong and tried to catch the defense off guard in the sixth minute, sending a cross from a quick free kick, but goalkeeper Devin Cook punched the ball out of the box. The Aztex responded several minutes later with an attempt on goal by forward Khiry Shelton, but was easily secured by Patriots goalie Victor Rodriguez.
In the 16th minute, Aztex midfielder Zach Garcia, committed a hard foul and was shown the first yellow card of the match. From that moment on, the game became more physical as the teams fought for ball possession.
Although the Aztex had a better approach on the attack, they just weren’t able to take shots on goal, unlike the Patriots who had efforts on goal from Campos, left winger Sergio Villaseñor and midfielder Naoyas Aizawa, all in a span of six minutes.
On the 33rd minute, defender Adrian Moreno was booked after committing a hard foul on Aztex forward Kekuta Manneh.
The Patriots quickly tried to grab the lead early in the second half. In the 48th and 49th minutes, the home side missed two headers from Villaseñor and forward Guillermo Salas, and the misses allowed Austin to surprise the Patriots with a quick counterattack. Manneh made a run from the right to cut into the box and passed the ball to Shelton, who took a poor shot, missing just wide of the goal.
In the 59th minute, Patriots defender Benjamin Vasquez blocked a shot from the Aztex with his arm just outside the penalty box and was penalized with a free kick. Austin defender Juan Cruz took a powerful shot over the wall and into the crossbar. The game turned sloppy and the Patriots never quite managed to create scoring opportunities in the attack.
The Aztex, however, had the answers on their bench. In the 69th minute, Riley came in to replace Jesus Cortez, and 10 minutes later in the 79th, Morse replaced Shelton.
The game was revived in the final minutes as the Patriots were trying to push for the win. In the 74th, Michael Griego played a through ball between the defenders, beating the offside and Aizawa took a low shot to the far post, but Cook got the save for the Aztex.
The Patriots missed an opportunity for a score as Aizawa delivered a cross to the far post, where Griego was unmarked as he took a hard header in front of the goal. Once again, Cook appeared with a miraculous save down low to deny El Paso the much-needed score for the win.
“Our goalkeeper came out huge tonight with a couple of saves,” said Austin assistant coach Manuel Buentello. “He kept us in the game and we got lucky towards the end.”
The Patriots fell to a 6-6-2 season record and still trail the division-leading Aztex by nine points and the Laredo Heat by seven points in the final standings.
The Patriots will play their final two games of the season at home, taking on the Texas Dutch Lions and the Heat at 8 p.m. July 13 and July 14 respectively.
“Now we are playing for pride, because now we lost our chance of making the playoffs,” forward Michael Griego said. “We want to show the fans we can win at home.”
Edwin Delgado may be reached at email@example.com.