El Paso, TX — The Austin Aztex are at the top, the El Paso Patriots at the bottom, so perhaps it was only fitting that the two teams finished the regular season somewhere in the middle.
The Patriots (1-10-3) got a tough point against the Mid-South Division champions, earning a 2-2 draw Saturday night with determination and hard work from a young team. It speaks to a brighter 2014, especially after the 8-0 loss El Paso absorbed in Austin (11-1-2) June 15th.
Knowing his team would be division champions for the last couple of weeks, Aztex head coach Paul Dalglish may have dipped into his bench for his starting 11 to end the regular season, but he certainly wasn't taking his foot off the gas starting a 4-3-3 formation and pushing the attack as much as the Patriots allowed.
Francisco "Paco" Chavez has had a different perspective for the last few weeks. Knowing his team would finish in sixth and last place with easily the worst record in team history, Chavez wasn't about to let the Patriots go down without a fight.
Fight they did, perhaps surprising the Aztex with directness and speed in the early going. They also got an early break, too, as Francisco De Anda was bowled over just inside Austin's 18-yard box. Referee Jack Jaime signaled for the penalty, coolly finished by Enrique Cervantes in the 17th minute.
It didn't take long for Austin to equalize, though, as Kitiry Shelton found himself unmarked in the left corner of the box and lifted a perfectly-placed shot into the right corner of the El Paso goal in the 22nd minute.
Juan Cruz gave the visitors the lead in the 42nd minute as a header from Jeff Harwell was stopped by Patriots goalie Agustin Rey, who bobbled the ball as he hit the ground at the edge of the six-yard box. That was all Cruz needed, stepping in to chip the ball away from Rey and into the net.
But El Paso fought back, heaping pressure on the Aztex to start the second half. The work paid almost immediate dividends as big midfielder Jose Moreno first-timed his own shot in for the tying goal after it was saved by Austin goalie John Kaschak in the 47th minute.
The Aztex move on to the Southern Conference semifinals to play the Panama City Beach Pirates of the Premier Development League's Southeast Division. The Laredo Heat will play the Southeast Division champion Ocala Stampede.
The Patriots can take comfort in the fact that they were only the second PDL side to score two goals in a game against an Austin team that led the Mid-South in goals allowed, having only allowed the opposition to score eight times against them all season. Oklahoma City is the only other PDL side to score twice on the Aztex in 2013.