The Austin Aztex can clinch a playoff birth with a victory against the El Paso Patriots at 9 p.m. on Sunday, July 8. Austin is ahead of El Paso by six points with a game in hand, while the Laredo Heat are a point ahead of the Aztex and in first place.
“This is the game I have been looking forward to since the last time we played them when they beat us 2-1,” Head Coach Paul Dalglish said. “I thought we deserved to win that game, and this is probably the game I have been looking forward to the most this season.”
The first time Austin traveled to El Paso, the Patriots handed the Aztex their first loss of the season in a 1-0 game. Enrique Cervantes scored the lone goal on a quick free kick. The Aztex evened the season series in their first ever home game winning 6-1, but El Paso won the next time the two sides played 2-1.
The Patriots attacking options are lead by Michael Griego, who has the most points for El Paso, 15, and goals, 7. Wide players Sergio Villasenior and Naoyos Aizawa are dangerous as well, and they have combined for six goals and five assists. Cervantes and Guillermo Salas will control the midfield for the Patriots.
Recently, the Aztex have been on a rampant scoring form with 13 goals in their past two games, and defensively Austin has been up to the task as well. During their current four game winning streak, the backline line has allowed only two goals, and Devin Cook has posted two shutouts.
With the firepower offensively, the team has scored the most goals, 39, in USL PDL, and a few Austin players are at the top of scoring statistics in the league. Kekuta Manneh and Kristopher Tyrpak are tied with three other players for the second most goals in the league with 10. The Austin born Tyrpak is also tied for second for the most points in the league with 23.
“(Manneh and Tyrpak) are fantastic young players,” Dalglish said. “We have known that for a long time, and for two wingers to score that amount goals at their age is incredible. You have to keep reminding yourself how young they are.”
On the injury report, Ronald Caicedo is out with a skin condition. Ross Kelly and Kristopher Tyrpak will also miss the match, as they were unable to travel with the team.
The Aztex must continue their scoring form to secure a final spot in the playoffs. The top two teams in the Mid South Division advance to the playoffs, and they will play the top two seeds from the Southeast Division. First, Austin needs to secure a win against El Paso, who is the only club the Aztex have a losing record against.
“It is nice knowing our future is in our hands,” Zach Garcia said. “It is a matter of going out and getting the job done and doing what we need to do. Everything else will work its way out.”