LAREDO – The Austin Aztex put up a great defensive effort to close out the game and escape with a 2-1 win against the Laredo Heat after scoring two goals in the first half. With this win, the Aztex bounced back in strong fashion after losing for the first time this season on June 28th. The game took place Tuesday evening at the Texas A&M International University Soccer Complex in Laredo, Texas.
Laredo (4-3-3) brought the heat in the first 10 minutes of the game. They maintained possession and did not conceded any space for the Aztex (8-1-1) to develop their game. The first threatening action against the Aztex came on the 6th minute when a Heat attacker was able to make a shot through traffic that went wide right.
The Aztex responded quickly when a free kick was awarded to them after a foul 25 yards out from goal. Andrew Fox took a shot that went fiercely into the crossbar, and the ball bounced back into the goal area, where Aztex forward Adam Black tried to push it into the net but was unable to finish the play.
Laredo’s tactics continued to work in their favor as Heat forward Felix Garcia shot twice on goal, evading defenders and getting into position. The Aztex defensive front kept trying to hold them off, and soon the game became a contest with though challenges and physical plays. In the 23’ minute, Aztex goalkeeper Devin Perales was issued a caution due to pushing/dissent with Heat defender Jorge Rocha. Soon after that, Perales issued a statement when he saved a point blank shot three yards away from goal and started firing up his teammates to fight for the win.
The team backed their goalkeeper by heading up field with great speed and getting a corner kick from the left side. Aztex midfielder Jeff Harwell sent the corner into the heart of Laredo’s goal area, where players tried to push it in until the ball found Andrew Fox, who with a decisive turn, drilled a left-legged shot towards goal, leaving the keeper Jorge Ortega without any hopes of saving it.
But the Heat were not going to give up. They kept applying pressure from all fronts, not allowing the Aztex to hold possession for long and distributing the ball all around. In the 36th minute, Jeff Harwell and Heat player Miguel Fernandez were issued cautions because of a very strong challenge that left Harwell laying on the ground for a couple of minutes. Three minutes later, Laredo kept pushing with two free kicks, a nullified goal because of an offsides call, and a shot that barely missed the crossbar.
Yet again, Devin Perales stepped up. After securing the ball, looked up and cleared the ball far into Heat territory, where he directly found attacker Adam Black who connected a header to lobby the goalkeeper and set the score at 2-0 in the 46th minute of the first half. Perales registered his second assist this season, becoming the only Aztex goalkeeper in the club’s history to have two assists in one season.
The joy wouldn’t last for long as just one minute after Black’s score, the Heat sent a through ball to forward Salvador Luna who managed to evade defenders and sneak into the Aztex goal area. He then faced Devin Perales and shot the ball across the far side of the goal and bring the Heat within one goal from the Aztex.
The second half began with a change in the Aztex lineup. Josh Alcala was substituted with Marshall Tucker. The story didn’t change much, as the Heat didn’t waste a minute and were all over the place trying to pierce in the Aztex defense, who were ready for the challenge. In the 52nd minute, Devin Perales again was tested, and again, he showed he wasn’t going to accept any more goals.
The Aztex game plan was beginning to take a toll on the Heat players during the last minutes of the match. The Aztex defenders were well positioned and played in an orderly fashion. With consistent attacks from the Heat, the Aztex defense bended, but it never broke.
As the game winded down, it became more physical and a lot of fouls were committed. Heat forward Salvador Luna got a caution after a strong tackle. Harwell was substituted by George Beasley after a hard foul in the 88th minute. Alesi Osorio was the last to be issued a yellow card during injury time. In the end, six yellow cards were issued.
But none of that mattered for the Aztex, whose impressive defensive stand and well executed plays made them victorious on a difficult field to play in.
With the win, the Aztex move to 25 points on the season and increase their lead to five points over the Midland/Odessa Sockers, who they face on July 5th in the second game of the three game road trip that began today.
The Aztex return to House Park for a showdown with the Midland/Odessa Sockers on Friday, July 11th at 7:30 p.m. This game will be key on who is going to come out on top of the Mid-South Division this year.