In front of an enormous crowd of 4,253 fans at House Park, the Austin Aztex defeated the Thunder Bay Chill 3-1 Sunday night to cap off an outstanding season and claim their first Premier Development League (PDL) championship.
House Park was literally packed. And the performance on the field did not disappoint. The fast-paced, attacking style continued to excite fans, and the result was no different than that of the previous three playoff matches.
The Aztex got to the final by beating the Ocean City Nor'easters on Friday in a nail biter, 1-0. After back-and-forth action, the Aztex scored the only goal of the match in the 52nd minute. It was no surprise that Sito Seoane, who has scored so many critical goals this post-season, was the one to bury the ball in the back of the net. After a heads-up play by Zack Pope, the Aztex captain, to make a quick throw in to Seoane, he was able to strike the ball off the volley, which hit the inside of the post and finally settled in the back of the net. The Aztex were able to hold on as everyone in attendance was on the edge of their seat.
In the other PDL Semifinal, the regular season champions, the Thunder Bay Chill, beat the Victoria Highlanders 2-0 to secure their spot in the final. Thunder Bay had a regular season record of 12-1-1 (37 points), which was one win better than the 11-1-2 (35 points) record for the Aztex. The season couldn't have ended any better than with the top two teams from the league facing off for the Championship.
Hosting the tournament was a huge plus for the Aztex, since they were a perfect 10-0 at home this season (including the playoffs). Their goal differential was an astounding 30 goals for and only three goals against at home heading into the championship game. Prior to the game, the PDL announced that Aztex Forward Kris Tyrpak was awarded the league MVP and Coach Paul Dalglish was honored as the Coach of the Year. It was a terrific weekend for the Aztex both on and off the field.
Going into the final, there was a tremendous amount of excitement. The team was playing terrific soccer and was the most recognized team in the league. Eberly's Army arrived early and was loud throughout the entire match. The stands were full, and it was a who's who of Austin Soccer. The game started out with the same fast-paced action that Aztex fans have come to expect. In the second minute of the game, the Chill's Pedro Adan scored off a rebound from a bang–bang play in front of the net. The goal seemed to take a bit of wind out of the team, as they had not given up a goal in this year's playoffs. The team kept their heads up and continued to push on with their aggressive style.
Just over a minute later, Tony Rocha played a terrific through ball to Kris Tyrpak, who was alone one-on-one with the keeper. He took a small touch to his left, but Chill goalkeeper Stephen Paterson came out with a two-footed challenge, which sent Kris tumbling to the ground inside the box. The referee immediately pointed to the spot, signaling for a penalty shot. To make matters worse for the Chill, the referee showed Paterson a straight red card and sent him packing. Seoane buried the penalty in the back of the net as Daniel Alvarado, the keeper who came on to replace Paterson, guessed the wrong way. The game was level.
From that moment on, the Aztex pressure intensified as they looked to capitalize on the man advantage. In the 22nd minute, it was Tyrpak, Pope, and Seoane again. After a terrific cross from Pope, Tyrpak attempted a shot that was deflected and fell straight to Seoane, who blasted the ball over Alvarado. The keeper didn't stand a chance. The Aztex took the 2-1 lead and never looked back. As the first half was about to end, Seoane played a pass out to Khiry Shelton, who scored off a low shot that was beyond the reach of Alvarado. Going into the half, the Aztex were in complete control, with a 3-1 advantage.
In the second half, Aztex goalkeeper Devin Cook was challenged a few times as the Chill were pressing hard to get back in the game. In the 54th minute, Chill forward Sullivan Silva was fouled and brought down in the box, resulting in a Chill penalty shot. Unlike Seoane, however, Paul Dillon was unable to convert as he pushed the shot wide of the goal. The Aztex continued to control the possession, and there was no room for the Chill to level the score.
The fans were great until the final whistle. It was a terrific performance and a terrific ending to a great season. This is the first PDL Championship for the Aztex—the future is bright for soccer in Austin!