Aztex wonder goal is all that separates the two sides
A brilliant strike by Sito Seoane lifted the Austin Aztex to a 1-0 victory against the Ocean City Nor’easters in the semifinals of the 2013 PDL Championship. Seoane scored early in the second half to send a crowd of 3,062 at House Park into celebration and put his side through to face the Thunder Bay Chill in the PDL Championship game on Sunday night.
The Aztex had much of the play in the opening half, the Nor’easters have always had difficulty playing on turf fields, especially when covered in Football and Lacrosse markings, and were slow to settle into the game. However, the Nor’easters were always a threat going forward as they have been throughout the 2013 season. Frank Tweneboa’s surgical passing with Zoncher Dennis and Dwayne Reid’s pace and finishing was unsettling the tough Austin backline.
Both teams were creating chances but a mix of top quality goalkeeping and strikes just off target kept the teams level at half time. From the beginning of the game the temperature dropped from 103 degrees to a just as sweltering 97 degrees at field level.
The Nor’easters had hung on in these difficult circumstances but were slow to begin the second half. Seven minutes into the second half the Aztex were able to find a breakthrough. Seoane received a throw-in from Zack Pope on the left side with Ocean City defending a little too deep, and with the ball bouncing he struck a strong shot into the right corner of the net that left Nor’easters goalkeeper Michael O’Keeffe with no chance to save.
“The ball was bouncing, but I didn’t doubt it,” Seoane said. “It’s awesome, tonight we’re going to enjoy it, but it’s not over, we’ve got one more game. Thunder Bay is a really good team, so we’re going to have to be ready.”
Seoane’s goal was his third in as many PDL Playoff games, having scored the opening goal in both of the Aztex’s contests in the Southern Conference Championship a week ago.
The Aztex opened the game more brightly, and were able to put together some good passing moves, but were unable to find a breakthrough as the Nor’easters defended solidly. Aaron Guillen went close from a corner kick in the 13th minute, O’Keeffe making a good save from point blank range to deny the opportunity, and a shot by Andres Cuero from 20 yards was deflected away by the Nor’easters defense.
Ocean City’s first chance didn’t arrive until the 37th minute, but it was a big one as Zoncher Dennis beat the Aztex’s offside trap and broke in one-on-one with Austin goalkeeper Devin Cook, only for the goalkeeper to hold his ground well and claim possession as Dennis tried to round him. A minute later Cook was forced into another good save as Ken Tribbett’s flicked header forced a diving stop.
Cook was called into action again four minutes into the second half to deny Dwayne Reid from 12 yards, but overall chances were sparse in the second half. Austin was able to control possession well, but unable to find a second goal, and Ocean City pushed forward looking for an equalizer in the final 15 minutes. That opened the game up, and Ocean City’s Emmanuel Kollie had a good curling shot from the right side turned away by Cook, only for Austin to hit the post a minute later through Jesus Cortes.
Ocean City’s best, and last, chance to tie the game came in the 87th minute as a good corner from the right side was met by Tribbett, only for his powerful header to go just over the crossbar. The Aztex held on to advance to Sunday’s semifinal, and a chance at the club’s first PDL championship.
“It’s what we’ve worked all year for,” Dalglish said. “These guys have sacrificed a lot to play for the Austin Aztex this summer. You sometimes under-appreciate how much work these guys put in when they’re not getting paid. These are amateur guys who have given up their summer, their friends are in Cancun or down 6th Street, and these guys have sacrificed their whole summer to be successful for the great support that we’ve got, and it means a lot to me, it means a lot to them, and it means a lot to the fans here in Austin.”
Noreasters President Giancarlo Granese deserves the last word on the season and we caught up with him after the game, "I am so proud of the boys. They have been incredible all season and they have given myself and the fans so much joy and pride. It is tough to fly halfway across the country for a soccer game, it costs a lot physically and financially, but it is always worth it when I see the effort that my boys put in tonight." Mr Granese added, "We are a proud and passionate club and the Noreasters will be back stronger than ever in 2014"
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Words by Austin Aztex, USL and Ocean City Nor’easters
Photo courtesy of USLsoccer.com