By Colby M. White | AMERICAN-STATESMAN CORRESPONDENT
Friday, June 4, 2010
League-leading Austin has piled up points against this year’s batch of expansion teams so effectively it might be easy to forget that the same strategy was applied against the Aztex last season.
The next three games might serve as a reminder.
Now in their second season, the Aztex will open a busy June today with a home match against the Puerto Rico Islanders. The USSF Division-2 contest kicks off a three-game stretch against the very teams that made Austin’s inaugural season so rough last year. The Aztex will host Portland Wednesday before Vancouver visits next Saturday .
Austin managed only two wins last season against the trio in nine tries, as Puerto Rico, Portland and Vancouver all qualified for the playoffs.
» We’re a lot better prepared than we were last year \u2026 but we know it’s going to be a difficult week,» Aztex coach Adrian Heath said.
Portland, which will head to Major League Soccer along with Vancouver next season, set a USL-1 record with a 24-game unbeaten streak last year while Puerto Rico rattled off a league-best five-game winning streak near the end of the season to finish in third place. Vancouver barely made the playoffs but rode a late run — including two wins over Austin — to the league finals.
«We know where these teams are going to end (the season),» Heath said. «They can cope with the rigors of our league — games Saturday, Wednesday, Saturday — better than most.»
Opponents with this kind of résumé have been rare for the Aztex this season. Seven of Austin’s nine games were against first-year teams, and none has resulted in a loss. Now Austin will have to defend its first-place standing against the traditional contenders.
Puerto Rico, Portland and Vancouver all dipped from their usual form in May, going a combined 1-3-7. The Whitecaps still sit atop the NASL Conference, but the Islanders and Timbers have fallen to the league’s bottom half.
«If you were to ask every coach in our division who do you think will be in the top six (at season’s end ), every one of them would say these three,» Heath said. «Even now.»
Despite Austin’s run against the league’s newbies, one expansion team has proven to be ready for its new opponents . Tampa Bay sits two points behind Austin and will play a similar June schedule, facing the same three teams Austin will start the month against, plus the defending league champion, Montreal.
«Once this little spell of games have gone for the pair of us, the league (standings) will be a fair reflection of where we all are,» Heath said.
Aztex vs. Puerto Rico
When: 7:30 p.m. today
Records:Austin is 6-1-2 (20 points); Puerto Rico is 3-3-0 (9 points).
Tickets: Call 335-8881 or buy online at www.austinaztex.com.