Soccer Watch

Aztex devour foe in home opener

Are the Austin Aztex really that good, or did they just catch a tired team on an off night? Maybe a little of both, but there's no denying the Aztex have put some serious quality players on the field, and they totally destroyed the El Paso Patriots, 6-1, in their home opener Saturday at House Park. The El Paso keeper was red-carded about 15 minutes in for taking down teen phenom Ketuta Manneh, who had rounded him in the box. Tony Rocha converted the ensuing penalty kick, and with two more Aztex goals in the next 10 minutes, the rout was on. In truth, though, the Aztex were in charge of this game even before the first goal – faster, quicker to the ball, better in possession and spacing – this was a complete team win: pretty impressive for a very young team, who've only been together a few weeks. (And the crowd was great: 2,507 strong, and loud despite the noisemaker ban.)

Special congrats to Kris Tyrpak, who had a hat trick, starting with a stunning, totally laid-out, diving header that has to be a goal of the year candidate; and to winger Chuy Cortes, who sent in the inch-perfect cross that Tyrpak drove home, then added another just like it, both with the outside of his right foot. ("I need to work a little bit on my left foot," he said afterward, almost apologetically.) Chuy's work rate and spirit make him an early fan favorite. The lone El Paso goal was a gift from the Aztex defense, a horribly weak back pass that set up a clean breakaway for an onrushing Patriot attacker. Aside from that, Aztex keeper Michael Lisch was little tested, but showed sure hands, and good command of his box. Oh, and the average age of the guys mentioned above: 19 1/2.

Next up: The Aztex are back on the field tonight (Thursday, May 24, 7:30pm) against the Texas Dutch Lions, whom they pummeled, 4-0, in the season opener in The Woodlands. But reportedly the Lions – a feeder for the USL-Pro Dayton Dutch Lions – have a slew of new international players now, who weren't available for the first game due to work visa issues. We shall see. The following weekend the New Orleans Shell Shockers are in town for back-to-back games Fri.-Sat., June 1-2, 7:30pm at House Park, 13th & Lamar. Tickets are $10; $50 for eight; kids 10 and under free.

The long-awaited Copa Esperanza 7v7 coed tournament is coming up Saturday, June 2, at NE Metro Park, sponsored by the Austin Coed Soccer Association and benefiting Casa Marianella and Villa Esperanza. Sign up as a team or individual by this Friday, May 25; $25 per player.

Elsewhere: Both El Paso and the Laredo Heat were knocked out of the U.S. Open Cup Tuesday, losing close games to pro teams Charlotte and the San Antonio Scorpions, respectivel ... San Antonio is thriving in their inaugural year, in third place in the NASL, and averaging more than 10,000 fans a game thus far... The Houston Dynamo sold out their first two games last week at brand-new, 22,039-seat BBVA Compass Stadium downtown; they'll no doubt be sold out again when the struggling LA Galaxy come to town this Saturday... That'll be the Galaxy without Robbie Keane, who's off to lead Ireland in the Euro 2012 tournament, which starts June 8, and Landon Donovan, who's with the U.S. team playing a friendly against Scotland (Saturday, May 26, 7pm ,on NBC), prepping for WC qualifying, which also starts June 8... Congrats to Santos Laguna, who won the Mexican clausura, after finishing second the past four seasons ... and to Chelsea for their first-ever Champions League title. U.S. TV ratings were down overall from last year's Barca-Man U matchup, but reports that Austin tied with Miami for the highest ratings in the country at 2.6.

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Austin Aztex, El Paso Patriots, Kris Tyrpak, Chuy Cortes, Texas Dutch Lions, Ketuta Manneh

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