The Austin Aztex (11-1-2) faced stiff competition from the El Paso Patriots and had to settle for a 2-2 draw Saturday night at Patriot Stadium in El Paso. With the game, the Aztex end their regular season campaign as the top seed in the USL PDL Southern Conference.

The Patriots, who sat at the bottom of the division table throughout the season, looked to close out their season on a high note and stepped up to the challenge versus the Aztex.

The Patriots were able to jump to an early lead in the 12th minute when the referee awarded the Patriots a penalty kick after Aztex defender Leone Cruz appeared to foul their opponent. Patriots midfielder Enrique Cervantes took the penalty kick and shot the ball to the left past Aztex goalkeeper John Kaschak.

The Aztex were able to come back with a quick response in the 23rd minute when forward Khiry Shelton cut toward the middle of the field and curled a shot past diving Patriots goalkeeper Agustin Rey.

Leone Cruz put the Aztex ahead before halftime. Aztex midfielder Jeff Harwell sent a free kick into the Patriots area. Aztex defender Aaron Guillen was able to get a glancing header on the ball to redirect the ball. Rey pounced on the ball but then bobbled the ball and it sprang loose. Leone Cruz hustled to the ball and slammed it into the back of the net for the second goal.

The comeback gave the Aztex the 2-1 lead heading into halftime.

““The whole season we have worked on our defending,” Aztex midfielder John Lujano said. “We work hard to fight back and get the team back into the game.”

The Patriots were able to answer back in the second half when Patriots midfielder Jose Moreno collected the rebound following a sensational reaction save Kaschak. Moreno then slid the ball past Kaschak. The Aztex would press the Patriots for much of the remainder of the game, but neither team was able to find the elusive winning goal.

The Aztex nearly escaped with a goal at the end of the game when the Aztex kicked the ball deep into the Patriots area. Two Patriot defenders eased off the ball for Rey to get the ball and Shelton hustled to the ball and took the ball from the Patriots. With an open goal, Shelton fired away for the open goal but a Patriot defender was able to scramble back for an off-the-line save.

The Aztex finished the regular season with 35 points through 14 games, an improvement over the 29 points through 16 games from the squads inaugural 2012 regular season. Once again, the Aztex were among the league leaders in goals scored whole a leader in defense.

“I am very proud of the team and the entire club,” Cruz said. “It is good to be part of an organization to do that for the first time and to bring the playoffs back to Austin. That is very important to us that we accomplished our goals but we are not done yet.”

The Aztex return to Austin to host the Southern Conference Playoffs Friday, July 26 and Saturday, July 27. In the first semifinal, the Laredo Heat will face off versus either the Ocala Stampede or the Panama City Beach Pirates. The Aztex will play in the second semifinal game versus the runner-up team in the Southeast Division.

Box Score:

Score: Austin Aztex 2 (11-1-2) vs. El Paso Patriots 2 (1-10-3)

Date: Saturday, July 20, 2013

Where: Patriot Stadium, El Paso, Texas

Weather: Partly Cloudy

Austin Aztex: John Kaschak, Zack Pope, Aaron Guillen, Leone Cruz (Max Gunderson, 45’), Michael King, Zachary Garcia, John Lujano (Tony Rocha, 59’), Jeff Harwell (Andres Cuero, 59’), Tucker Hume (Sito Seoane, 59’), Eddy Campbell (Kris Tyrpak, 59’), Khiry Shelton

Subs Not Used: Alesi Osorio, Walker Hume

El Paso Patriots:  Agustin Rey, Norman Ramos, Jair Olivares, Joaquin Diaz (Jorge Duarte, 87’), Daniel Campos, Jose Moreno, Enrique Cervantes (George Lara, 88’), Jonathan Camarena (Noel Hernandez, 62’), Naoyas Aizawa, Mario Alvarez, Francisco Deanda (Eric Hernandez, 80’)

Subs Not Used:, Adrian Del Muro, Mark Rey,

Cautions: Francisco De Anda (63’), Noel Hernandez (85’), Norman Ramos (87’)

Scoring Summary:

Player Assist Minute
ELP: Cervantes (p.k.) n.a. 12′
ATX: Shelton Pope 23′
ATX: Cruz n.a. 43′
ELP: Moreno n.a. 48′