EL PASO, TX — In the 36th minute, the El Paso Patriots had hope. Down 2-0 to West Texas, Eric Hernandez had earned a penalty with another of his startlingly-fast runs into the box and Kiki Cervantes stepped up to take the shot.
And then, hope died.
Sockers goalkeeper Nick Petolick had Cervantes pegged. Diving to his right, he parried a solid strike from the veteran forward to the left post. The rebound fell to West Texas, and that's when Cervantes decided to take out his frustrations by diving into the defender with both feet, studs up.
Referee Orion Stradford had the red card out of his pocket before he started running to break up the melee that was about to take place, as Cervantes was cornered by almost the entire Sockers team.
Not only Cervantes, but player/assistant coach Hugo Samano was ejected in the fracas for a foul that happened behind the play.
Down to nine men and left rudderless without their two most senior players, the Patriots conceded six more goals on the night.
For the second straight week El Paso has allowed eight goals and now owns the worst goals-allowed total in the Premier Development League with 33. The days are dark indeed for a franchise used to much prouder moments.
As for the Sockers, head coach Warren Cottle and his players must have felt hard done by the Patriots' first-half transgressions. As the second half wore on and El Paso grew weary, West Texas pressed forward showing great speed and skill on the counter-attack.
After David Gonzales and Len Smith started the scoring in the first half with goals in the 13th and 29th minute, respectively, the Patriots were able to keep the Sockers off the scoreboard for another 30 minutes.
But in the 58th minute, defender Benjamin Hiller first-timed a cross-field feed from Smith, followed in the 62nd by Smith himself, followed in the 69th by Joe Munoz's screaming 30-yard volley, followed in the 76th by Tyler Smith's beautiful far-post strike from the edge of the area, followed in the 85th by Vitales Atemafac from the other side, followed by Ricardo Chinchilla's rebound goal off a solid half-volley from Gonzales.
Six goals in 27 minutes.
El Paso falls to 1-7-1 this season, in the cellar of the PDL's Mid-South Division with four points. All three of the Sockers (3-4-1) wins this season have come against the Patriots. All 10 of their points, as well, after the teams tied, 2-2, to open the season.
El Paso is back in action next Saturday against the Laredo Heat. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. MDT.