The Austin Aztex played its final game of the season Saturday for a 3-2 loss at the hands of the Montreal Impact. Though the loss eliminated Austin from the playoffs in a 5-2 aggregate series, the night wasn’t a total loss for the Aztex.
In just its second year in existence, the team managed to land the third seed in the USSF D-2 Pro League playoffs after being in the first position for much of the season. The Aztex went neck and neck with the Canadian squad that has a significantly larger roster and payroll and will be joining Major League Soccer in a couple of years.
Montreal scored early goals in both halves and the third just before stoppage time to extinguish any chances of an Aztex comeback. However, it’s not as if Austin rolled over and allowed the Impact to walk away with a victory. The Aztex controlled much of the game and had several opportunities to take control of it.
“We had enough chances tonight to win two games,” head coach Adrian Heath said. “On any given day, the outcome could’ve been different.”
Austin ended up with more shots and corner attempts and was the more physical of the two teams, but in the end, they weren’t able to beat out the experience that Montreal, a club
started in 1993, had put on the field.
“That is a huge club,” Heath said of the size and experience that Montreal had coming into the playoff game on Saturday.
The Impact will also enter MLS in a couple of years as the league expands. Compared to the two years that the Austin Aztex have been playing, there is a tailor-made excuse for how the game went. But the players weren’t buying it.
“We have no excuses. We gave ourselves too much to do,” forward Eddie Johnson said about letting in two early goals in each half that put Austin in a bind, especially considering that it needed to win by three to advance on the aggregate goal total.
Now the Aztex will go into offseason with a chip on their shoulder and with something to build off of.
“Nobody expected us to do as well. We can be proud of that,” forward Jamie Watson said of his team’s advancement throughout the year.
Even Heath was pleasantly surprised with the team’s overall success this year, despite the end result.
“We made huge strides this year,” said Heath, who will have the players’ full focus heading into what should be a difficult offseason.
The players aren’t going to be sitting back and riding the accomplishments of this year into next season. They intend to get better and work to go even further then they did this year as
they try to bring a championship to Austin.