Sito Seoane scored his third straight game-winning goal in the 52nd minute Friday night to give Austin a 1-0 victory over Ocean City at House Park and send the Aztex into the Premier Development League finals Sunday.
“I didn’t even see him hit the ball,” teammate Kris Tyrpak said. “I then saw the ball hit the back of the net, and I knew that we had it in the bag.”
The players celebrated Seoane’s strike by gang-tackling the forward in front of the Aztex supporters group, Eberly’s Army, as the record-setting crowd of 3,062 rejoiced.
The Aztex controlled the game in the first 45 minutes, with nine shots to the Nor’easters four, but failed to score a goal. Austin kept the ball on the turf, playing the same pass and move style the team perfected all season, which helped the Aztex lead their division in goals scored.
Austin’s best chance came in the 16th minute, when Ocean City keeper Michael O’Keeffe stopped Leone Cruz’s header from going into the net after a Seoane corner. Later, a Nor’easters defender blocked a shot by Andres Cuero from going in after six straight pinpoint passes from Austin.
Ocean City had the two best chances in the first half. Austin keeper Devin Cook stayed on his feet and forced Zoncher Dennis to make the first move before Cook tipped the ball away from the forward on a one-on-one chance in the 37th minute. A minute later, Cook dove to stop Ken Tribbett’s header from going in.
At the start of the second half, Cook made another huge save to keep the game scoreless. He denied Ocean City’s top scorer, Dwayne Reid, from 12 yards out in the 49th minute.
Three minutes, later Austin finally broke the deadlock. Austin captain Zachary Pope threw the ball in quickly to Seoane. The Austin forward took a touch and then volleyed the ball from 25 yards out past a sprawling O’Keeffe.
Westlake High School alumni Tucker Hume (in the 71st minute) and Walker Hume (in the 77th minute) came in to shore up Austin’s offense and defense. With the Hume twins in, the Aztex had seven players in the game who grew up playing soccer in Austin.
Cook made two more late saves to preserve the win as he denied all six chances for Ocean City on the night.
“I don’t care what it was — penalty kick or one-on-one, it didn’t matter — it wasn’t coming past me,” Cook said.
The Thunder Bay Chill defeated the Victoria Highlanders 2-0 in the early semifinal, with goals by Sergio Campano Franco and Sullivan Silva.
Thunder Bay, which had the best regular-season record (12-1-1), will face Austin in the championship match at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at House Park.