Aztex: Good News, Bad News

Three games this weekend for soccer fans

Ryan McMahen
Ryan McMahen (Photo courtesy of Austin Aztex)

Games every day this weekend for the Austin Aztex: the senior squad plays Friday and Sunday evenings, with the U-23s in action Saturday. The Aztex host two of the better teams in the USL – the Carolina RailHawks at 7:30pm Friday, and the Rochester Rhinos (no longer Raging Rhinos) at 6pm Sunday, July 21, both games at Nelson Field (Berkman, just north of 290) – with seven regulars currently out with injuries (see below), and needing some results to stay in the playoff picture. These are the last home games for a while; the next two weekends are in Cleveland and Rochester.

The good news: The Aztex handled the El Paso Patriots pretty easily Tuesday night in the U.S. Open Cup second round, setting up a juicy final-16 match-up with downstate rival Houston Dynamo on Wednesday, July 1. The Dynamo's in top form right now, with the best record in Major League Soccer. They were here for a preseason exhibition – which the Aztex won on penalty kicks – it'll be fun to see them again with something on the line. More about that game next week.

The bad news: read on below.

The bad news: Weather led to a hideous road trip last week, that started Thursday afternoon with driving rental cars to Houston on short notice, and stopping in Philadelphia, Newark, and New York's JFK, before finally arriving in Puerto Rico mid-day Friday, for a 7pm game that night – a 4-1 loss, followed by a 2-0 loss in Miami, and injuries to Eddie Johnson, Miguel Gallardo, and Kieron Bernard, that leave the Aztex just on the outside of the USL-1 playoff picture heading into their last two-game homestand of the season this weekend. The injury picture is dire as well, with seven regulars currently out of action. A.J. Godbolt and Yordany Alvarez were scratched from the starting lineup moments before kickoff Tuesday night. Alvarez may have a broken left foot, adding to a long list of injuries: Bernard (hamstring), Johnson (quad), Gallardo (leg), Gifton Noel-Williams (hamstring), and Jarius Holmes (knee). Even with two players brought up from the U-23 squad, and Ciaran O'Brien on season-long loan from the MLS, the Aztex have just 16 players total (and no backup keeper – scary).

The Aztex U-23s, on the other hand, are coming off a tough road trip of their own, out to Amarillo and El Paso, with a pair of wins, placing them in first place in the very competitive PDL Mid South. They host West Texas United at 7:30pm Saturday, June 20 at Dragon Stadium in Round Rock (off RR 620, just west of I-35).

In Confederations Cup play, 10-man U.S. struck first against reigning world champs Italy, but eventually lost their opener, 3-1. Euro champions Spain qualified for the semifinals with a 1-0 win over Iraq on Wednesday – a world record-equaling 14th consecutive win, and 34th unbeaten in a row, one short of Brazil's world record. Group play continues with U.S.-Brazil, 9am Thursday, June 18, and U.S.-Egypt and Italy-Brazil, both at 1:30pm Sunday, June 21. The semifinals are 1:30pm Wed.-Thu., June 24-25; final is 1:30pm Sunday, June 28. All those games are live on ESPN or ESPN2.

North Korea joined the World Cup party Wednesday, claiming the last Asian qualifying spot over Saudi Arabia.

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