Aztex back in action, face big late-season challenges
The Austin Aztex’s oncecomfortable lead atop the league standings continued to shrink over the past two weeks, and they couldn’t do a thing about it.
Austin’s match tonight against Miami will end a two-week break that saw the team’s two closest rivals in the USSF Division-2 standings — Rochester and Vancouver — both trim the Aztex’s lead to only two points. Rochester and Vancouver each have played three matches since Austin last played, earning six and four points, respectively.
“I’m more concerned with what we are going to do,” Aztex coach Adrian Heath said. “The most important thing is the level of our play. I know with this group if we play as well as we can, we’re more than capable of winning games in this division.”
As the league enters the final two months of play, Rochester and Vancouver have emerged as Austin’s closest, and arguably only, competition for the regular-season title. After those three teams, the standings begin to bunch up. Six teams are within three points of one another, and no one is within eight points of the Aztex.
Austin’s next three matches — at home against Miami and Tampa Bay and on the road at Puerto Rico — come against teams in the bottom half of the D-2 standings, but “I think that (middle tier) is going to be difficult. I really do,” Heath said. “Although it looks like we’re running away in terms of that next pack, we know in two weeks when we go to Puerto Rico it’s going to be a really difficult game.”
The Aztex also face a late August trip to Vancouver, and Austin’s only two losses this season have come against Vancouver and Rochester, both at House Park. A trip to Rochester on July 9 ended better, but Austin still had to settle for a scoreless draw.
“That’s why I was so disappointed when we didn’t win in Rochester,” said Heath, whose club doesn’t face the Rhinos again in the regular season. “We did more than enough to win the game and all of a sudden there’s a two-point swing for us.”
Even as Vancouver and Rochester close in on Austin, all three clubs are in comfortable position for the playoffs, allowing the Aztex to focus on their own schedule.
“We just got to keep our run going,” said Eddie Johnson, Austin’s leading scorer. “We’re just concentrating on ourselves. … If we can come out of August with quite a few points, we’re looking good going into the playoffs.”