MIDLAND – Chuy Cortes scored the game-winning goal in the 90th minute to help the Austin Aztex defeat the Midland/Odessa Sockers 2-1 Saturday night in Midland. With the victory, the Aztex (9-1-1) clinch a playoff berth and repeat as USL PDL Mid South Division Champions.
With a playoff berth and the division title sealed and delivered, the Aztex will look to bring the playoffs back to Austin by securing home field advantage with a strong finish to the three remaining regular season games.
“It has been the same goal from the beginning, Aztex goalkeeper Devin Perales said. “Even though we clinched the division we cannot take our foot off of the gas. We are still going to train as hard as we have always been training.”
The Aztex took a confident start to the game and quickly took control of the midfield. With supremacy in the midfield, the Aztex were able to work their channels to move the ball up the field. However, the Sockers (6-4-2) backline led by centerbacks Walker Hume and Johnathan Clifford proved difficult for the Aztex to break through, and the Aztex were unable to get a clean shot on goal.
The Sockers would try to break down the Aztex defense with a quick, counterattacking style. Yet the Aztex midfielders and forward would work hard to force turnovers and prevent the Sockers from possessing the ball long enough to build the attack.
The Aztex had their best scoring chance in the 35th minute on a quick counter attack where the midfielders fed Adam Black the ball. Black would take a brazen shot from distance, which banged off of the crossbar.
Both coaches made adjustments at halftime, as Aztex head coach Manuel Buentello sent in Sito Seoane for Andy Fox while the Sockers sent in Mario Alvarez for Ante Spajic.
The Aztex were able to strike quickly and get on the scoreboard when Kalen Ryden was able to get past the defense on the left side of the field and hammered a low cross across the face of the goal. Eddie Campbell made a run to the far post and smashed the ball into the net for the opening goal.
The Sockers responded in similar fashion in the 62nd minute when Tucker Hume wrapped around the left side of the defense and found Conrod Goulbourne at the back post for the equalizer.
The Sockers would have the Aztex against the ropes for the final 20 minutes of the match, but were unable to break past Aztex goalkeeper Devin Perales, who was lights-out in the second half. Perales came up with a handful of point-blank saves to keep the score nodded even.
“We knew we had to come out with points or we were going to be challenged for the rest of the season,” Perales said. “We battled but our defense help strong. It was a challenge but it was hard to be broken down.”
However, the Aztex did not want to keep a draw. After a quick counter attack in the 90th minute, Cortes took a shot against Sockers goalkeeper Jason Babyack. Babyack made the save, but was unable to contain the ball. After a scramble for the loose ball, Cortes was able to get to the ball and push it into goal.
In all three matchups between the Sockers this season, Chuy Cortes scored the game-winning goal late into the game.
The Aztex will finish their three-game road trip with a match versus the Houston Dutch Lions on Tuesday, July 8.