With superior quickness and handling the Coogs started the district soccer season in style Tuesday, scoring a dominant 3-1 result at Vela.
Coach Elias Moran’s side was energetic and determined from the outset, winning the lion’s share of midfield 50-50 balls and benefiting from tight defense in the back. Carlos Rodriguez started the night off well with a score six minutes in and the Coogs withstood a couple of solid chances from the SaberCats to hold that advantage until the 15-minute mark of the first half. Then, Javier Villasana, one of the few seniors on this year’s roster for Coach Americo Cortez, took advantage of a North giveaway to ricochet in the equalizer.
Late in the half, though, fortunes turned for good, after Vela’s Eudelio Adame hammered a 30-yarder that banged off metal, North countering. Strong-legged senior Azael de Leon, whose booming kicks were absolutely brilliant Tuesday, put the Coogs up 2-1 at 2:18. After a Vela foul right outside the box, de Leon took the free kick and squirreled it into the net, off contact, to put his team ahead.
Vela, which experienced severe trouble on defense for most of the night, struggled early in the second half. But the side survived a barrage of shots by North in the first six minutes to rebound with more gusto, football kicker Austin Garza making a few quality runs. But with Carlos Sandoval keying the middle of the pitch, North was able to withstand the Vela rush, and eventually gained the two-goal edge. De Leon blooped a perfect ball over the defense and Reynaldo Cano – a late sub with fresh legs – ran it down in the right flat and fired into the twines at 12:28.
Vela had come into the 31-6A opener with a 3-3-3 overall mark as Cortez works combinations of new kids into the lineup. The Sabes did well in a Bracket of Death at the Mission Tourney, nearly upsetting Sharyland and playing Laredo United to a draw, losing an advance onward due to PKs against United. Then they performed ably at the Corpus Tourney, again battling against the tough bracket.
“So we have played some very good teams and done well,” said Cortez before his team took on a city rival Tuesday. “We do have a bunch of new kids, I have three or four freshmen who are going to be good, and some sophomores too. With only a few seniors, we need to get more experienced and the tournaments were good for that.”
One of the veterans, the explosive Carlos Aparicio, had few spaces deep against burly Esteban Lopez and the wiry de Leon. The midfield quickness and agility of junior Michael Giambra was promising, while left back Jacob Salinas, a lanky sophomore, exhibited patience and skill with the ball. The SaberCats lost a keeper to injury midway through the first half and like all four city teams, are searching for the right fit in the crease.
Though they gave the ball away too much, the Sabes showed resilience at times, and until Cano’s late goal were down just 2-1. Cortez praised the leadership of Villasana, who did not play last year but has returned to the fray with a terrific attitude and the will to achieve.
NOTES: Friday, the Sabes got past EHS, 2-1 while North was clipped 3-2 by Southwest on a late penalty kick. Econ, having started the slate with a victory Tuesday over EHS, was knocked off against Memorial in its next outing.