By Anthony Mannino
It took the Austin Aztex only six minutes to score against the Texas Dutch Lions on route to a 4-0 win at WoodForest Bank Stadium in Shenandoah, Texas.
The goal by Tony Rocha eased the nerves for the Aztex who were playing their first game since the team relocated. Callum Riley was taken down in the box. A penalty wasn’t called, but instead a free kick 19-yards out from goal. The poor call didn’t matter with Rocha’s left-footed free kick curling into the top left corner of the net.
Austin was patient throughout the match and controlled the majority of the possession for the entire game. Coach Paul Dalglish urged his team to press high up the pitch, and his players obliged him forcing the Dutch Lions into turnovers in their own defense end. This allowed the Aztex to attack further up the pitch and made their defenders’ lives easier.
“I think you have to credit our forward players as well for putting them under pressure to not allow them to build up and get to our back four,” said Coach Paul Dalglish on giving up only one shot on goal.
The result was four goals and one only speculative shot on goal by the Dutch Lions.
It was the front four of Zack Pope, Jesus ‘Chuy’ Cortes, William Morse and Riley playing as the lone striker that cause the most problems for the Dutch Lions. The four were constantly pressuring the opposing defense, and once they won the ball their intricate passing set up numerous chances for the Aztex.
“When you got players like that (Pope, Cortes, Morse and Riley) as a defender my job becomes very easy,” said Azex defender Beto Papandrea. “Because, I know these guys are going to go create opportunities and that is going to make the other team worry.”
The first half Austin played better than the second, but only managed one goal. The second 45 minutes the Aztex scoring luck would change.
Just as in the first half, it took the Aztex only six minutes to get on the scoring sheet in the second. An excellent build up ended with Morse sending a cross-field pass to Pope on the left and he earned a corner. With James Martin taking the corner, the former Premier Development League player of the year, Papandrea, ran to the near post. The ball deflected off Papandrea and the Dutch Lions goalkeeper Kurt Lange pushed it into the net for an own goal, which put Austin up 2-0.
The work rate of the front four was rewarded fifteen minutes after the own goal when Cortes outhustled his defender to increase the Aztex lead to three. The Dutch Lions defender anticipated the ball to go out of bounds, but Cortes ran to the sideline, jumped and headed the ball to keep it inbounds and then hit a cross that deflected off Lange’s hands and into the net.
It was a goal that one of the front players deserved with their tireless work effort. Cortes in particular was able to run around the pitch causing problems for the Dutch Lions, and even used his smaller 5-foot, 5-inch frame to push defenders off the ball.
The display by the Aztex was impressive, but it was the play from the team’s newest member that will keep everyone buzzing. Kekuta Manneh, 17, scored the Goal of the Match in te 81st minute when he left three defenders on the ground and sent the keeper the wrong way. The talented Manneh is the type of player who has the quality to score goals like this, and he has – at the Development Academy level with 56 goals in 39 games.
“I am that type of player; I am creative,” Manneh said. “People can expect that throughout the season because I do it a lot. That is my style. That is how I play.”
In the end, the Aztex head home after out possessing, out playing and out hustling a Dutch Lions squad that was always going to be second best. The organization could not ask for a better start, and now expectations will be high to continue playing a beautiful brand of soccer under Dalglish.
“Sometimes we never keep possession long enough for us to get into our attacking shape, but listen I am being picky. I am absolutely delighted with that from the first game,” added Dalglish.