By Michael Sherfield
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Yordanny Alvarez doesn’t talk much. The Cuban exile, who speaks almost no English, gets by with a constant smile and low-key demeanor. But against the Puerto Rico Islanders, he has found his voice on the pitch.
The midfielder scored Austin’s equalizer against the Islanders earlier this month in a 1-1 tie, before scoring twice and creating the other goal as Austin beat the Islanders 3-1 on Friday night.
The Aztex and Alvarez overcame the absence of forwards Eddie Johnson and Gifton Noel-Williams and winger Sullivan Silva to win for the second time this season in front on 2,000 fans at Nelson Field.
«Personally, this was very important,» Alvarez said through a translator. «I’m getting confident, I need the confidence. And for the team, it was very important. … We needed to win.»
With Kyle Brown the lone healthy striker on an injury-plagued front line, the Aztex inserted Jean Alexander, acquired from MLS side Real Salt Lake on a short-term loan, into the starting lineup and attempted to soak up the Islanders’ pressure and striking quickly on the break.
The strategy was almost undone early on when the Islanders’ Petter Villegas picked up a loose ball at the edge of the Austin box but sent his thundering effort against the post with Miguel Gallardo beaten. The Aztex survived to take an unlikely lead going into halftime.
Making his USL-1 debut in place of the injured Silva on the right wing, Jeff Harwell was the catalyst, sending an inviting cross into the Islanders’ box. Alvarez was on hand to nod home from 4 yards out in the 42nd minute.
«I’m very pleased for the players because there were what people would count as the fringe players … (who) have done well. I thought Jeff Harwell was fantastic tonight,» said Austin coach Adrian Heath.
Austin added to that sucker punch with another just 10 minutes later.
Alvarez found the wide-open Lyle Adams in the Puerto Rico box, and the defender rose unchallenged to power the ball beyond Bill Gaudette for a 2-0 lead.
The visitors refused to lie down, striking back with an equally simple goal. Defender Christian Arrieta was on hand to guide home a corner kick at the near post in the 63rd minute to put the game within reach for the visitors.
But Alvarez placed the finishing touch on a sweeping counter attack that began in the Austin box when a crowd of Islanders attackers gave the ball away, sending Austin to the races with a devastating attack that ended with Alvarez nestling the ball in the net after coolly clipping the advancing goalkeeper.
«There will not be more than one or two teams that finish above Puerto Rico this year,» Heath said. «We played today near our maximum, and we have to do that to compete at the top level.»