For one minute short of five complete soccer matches beginning June 8 and ending Wednesday night, the Austin Aztex – with seemingly unbeatable goalkeeper Devin Cook as the last line of defense – allowed no goals and in the process established a commanding hold on first place in the Mid-South Division of the Professional Development League.
Cook’s scoreless streak ended at 449 minutes in a 1-0 road loss to Laredo Wednesday, the Aztex’s first defeat of the PDL season, but he remains tied in the league in shutouts with seven and will be a crucial cog to Austin’s success as it makes its final push for the division title and best record.
Even with the loss to Laredo, the Aztex (8-1-1, 25 points) have a five-point lead on the Heat (the four-time defending Mid-South Division champs) with four games left in the regular season.
Austin looks to put the setback behind it tonight when it hosts the West Texas Sockers at 7:30 p.m. at House Park. The Aztex are undefeated in PDL play at home this season and take a large measure of assurance into the match against West Texas, a team with more losses (five) than wins (three).
‘As soccer players we need to have a short-term memory,” Austin midfielder Tony Rocha said. “We need to go out there and be confident and play the way we know we can. We haven’t seen them play, but we know how we play. If we impose our style of play on them then they need to worry about us.”
The Aztex have allowed just five total goals in 10 PDL games, good enough for second in the league behind Fresno (four). Cook, who has started nine of those matches, is quick to credit his defense for the team’s ability to keep the ball out of the net.
“We have a great depth (on defense) so it doesn’t matter who we put in – we expect each other to play the way we know we can while taking care of business,” Cook said. “It makes my job easier, only having to make a few saves here or there. We have done a great job keeping it tight and contained.”
Cook, who attended both St. Stephen’s and Stony Point, was instrumental in the Aztex’s push to the playoffs last season as well, recording three shutouts in the eight games he played. His continued improvement comes at a crucial time for his future success as well as the fortunes of his hometown pro team – after two years on the roster at SMU he is looking to transfer to Coastal Carolina in fall.
There’s little doubt that Cook’s performance this spring and summer for Austin will turn a few heads when he gets to campus in Conway, S.C., which is just down the road from Myrtle Beach.
“The experience in Austin playing for the Aztex is a professional environment, and the coaches here hold us to higher standards,” Cook said. “If we start to slip, they will let us know so that we have to push ourselves every day. My aspiration is to be a professional soccer player one day, whether here in the States or overseas. I know the only way I can do that is to motivate myself every single day.”