MCALLEN – The lights at the stadium at Memorial were dim Monday night, as two of the towers were dark the entire game. But the teams on the pitch fought at a fever pitch throughout.
At the end of a Pier 6 brawl dressed as a soccer game, North managed to prevail, 1-0, scoring an improbable goal with 2:45 left amid a final 10 minutes in which tackles were brutal and cards plentiful.
Frank Cantu made the clinching play, leaping over a sliding Memorial defender and landing to slot the ball side-footed past the onrushing keeper, left to right. It was a superb moment for the Coogs, who had gone a man down at 4:31 of the game after a red card.
Thus, Coach Elias Moran’s crew had survived for the result, on a night where the Coogs had plenty of chances but could not connect on the final sure pass to dent the net. At the other end, the team’s excellent defensive combination of Esteban Lopez and Azael de Leon had closed off the Mustang chances, such that they were, with regularity.
Late in the match it looked somewhat grim for the visiting group, but Cantu’s heroics sent his team onward to the win. After a 2-3 showing at the Mission Tourney, which came on the heels of a one-sided loss at Palmview to start the 2017 season, North got the job done against a solid Memorial outfit.
Two seasons removed from a district title, Moran’s bunch has the makings of another titlist, with the defensive stars and Cantu in the middle. Carlos “Gallo” Rodriguez is another experienced hand this year and tough little Jeremy Garcia was active and effective most of the night. Wing man Reynaldo Cano looks like a difference-maker for the new edition, which has some size, some speed, and an aggressive mindset on the attack.
Moran noted that so far in 2017, his kids have been advancing but failing to complete combinations in the attacking third, and this was a factor despite Monday’s narrow win. Still, the Coogs punched one in via a rebound off a free kick in the second half, only to see the goal waved off.
They had a number of promising runs interrupted, a few times by impressive defensive from Memorial but in most instances due to a giveaway before the box.
Midway through, when it was suggested that his team was looking good against Memorial, Moran nodded.
“Looks good, yes … but …” he said, pointing to the scoreboard, where there were nothing but zeroes displayed.