If the Austin Aztex’s first two matches are any indication, Central Texas’ Premier Development League franchise is well on its way to making further strides into soccer’s professional consciousness in just its second season.
Austin won its regular-season league-opener against Oklahoma City last week 2-1 and followed that with a 3-0 victory Tuesday over NTX Rayados in the first round of the prestigious U.S. Open Cup.
On Saturday, the Aztex (1-0-0, 3 points) begin their home league schedule when the Houston Dutch Lions (0-1-0, 1 point) visit House Park.
In 2012 — their first season — the Aztex went 9-2-5, racked up 29 points and made the PDL playoffs, representing the Mid-South Division. Austin beat Ocala in the opening round of the Southern Conference championship tournament before falling to Orlando City in the second round.
While it’s a priority for any minor league franchise to develop players that will be promoted to the higher levels of the sport, Austin — thanks to a deep talent pool of elite local and national players — has been able to balance that ultimate goal and field a team that’s been competitive from the start.
Saturday’s match will be the third in eight days for the Aztex.
“To be fair, Wednesday was recovery and (Thursday) was preparing tactically what we would do against Houston,” Aztex coach Paul Dalglish said. “It’s tough when you’ve got Saturday to Tuesday to do so much preparation, so you’ve just got to plan one or two things that you think are important and focus on them.”
Thanks to a steady stream of players still being added as college terms end, Austin should be fresh and ready.
“When the schedule gets busy, all the small details become magnified,” defender Zack Pope said. “We have to make sure we are taking care of our bodies throughout the week, getting in for treatment if we need that, taking our time off when it is given to us and making sure when the whistle goes off it is full steam ahead.”
Eleven of the 27 players on the current roster are from the Austin area. Dripping Springs’ Kris Tyrpak, who led the team last season with 23 points, is back.
Other local players include the Hume twins, Tucker and Walker, and Andres Cuero from Westlake, LBJ’s Alesi Osorio, Bowie’s Travis Golden, Vista Ridge’s Justin Franz, Lake Travis’ Jacob Powell and Pope, from Stony Point.
Austin’s leading scorer through the first two matches is Houston native Tony Rocha, who has a goal in each of the games. Tucker Hume and Cuero have the Aztex’s other two goals. Josh Mikulewicz, a former University of Texas club player, has started at goalkeeper in both games and has allowed just one goal.
May 18;Houston Dutch Lions;7:30
May 25;Laredo Heat;7:30
June 1;Oklahoma City FC;7:30
June 8;at Houston Dutch Lions;7:30
June 15;El Paso Patriots;7:30
June 18;at Houston Dutch Lions;7:30
June 22;at Oklahoma City FC;7:30
June 29;Houston Dutch Lions;7:30
July 3;at Laredo Heat;8:15
July 5;West Texas Shockers;7:30
July 13;Oklahoma City FC;7:30
July 18;at West Texas Shockers;7:30
July 20;at El Paso Patriots;8:30
Note: Aztex home games are at House Park