If the odds were stacked against Austin in the run-up to its match against Wilmington in the second round of the 2013 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday at House Park, no one bothered to tell the underdog Aztex.
But all the confidence and execution weren’t nearly enough to overcome a crucial, first-half foul call and, ultimately, a bigger and better opponent as Wilmington beat the Aztex 2-0 to advance to the third-round of the oldest ongoing national soccer tournament in the United States.
The Hammerheads will play Portland of MLS in the knockout tournament while Austin ends its bid at the U.S. Open Cup.
Wilmington, a USL Professional Division squad, was supposed to be able to beat Austin, which plays in the Professional Development League, a level below the Hammerheads in the American soccer tier system. But the match was mostly even until a disputed foul call tipped the scales even more in Wilmington’s favor.
Neither team could establish dominance, but things changed in a flash in the 21st minute when Wilmington forward Steven Perry broke free and just onside after a long clearing pass and found himself one-on-one with Austin goalkeeper Devin Cook.
Cook came 15 yards off his line to try to cut off Perry’s angle and – when the two players collided – a foul was called on Cook that was considered to have occurred in the penalty area, granting the Hammerheads a penalty kick.
Cook was vehement with his displeasure with the referee’s call and was assessed a red card, forcing the Aztex to play the remaining 69 minutes of the game with just 10 players.
Richard Isberner took the penalty kick for Wilmington against substitute Austin goalkeeper Josh Mikulewicz and buried the ball into the net in the lower-left corner for a 1-0 lead for the Hammerheads.
Despite playing a man short, Austin outshot Wilmington 9-8 in the first half.
“Obviously, the foul call had a huge impact in the game, but we continued to press and struck to our game plan as much as we could,” Austin coach Paul Dalglish said. “We played well for the most part but just couldn’t score.”
The Aztex had to work hard to get the ball out of their own zone, much less muster any real offensive threat. Still Austin outshot the Hammerheads 7-6 in the second half.
Wilmington added to its lead when in the 68th minute after William Heaney’s kick into the six-yard area was redirected by Austin’s Leone Cruz into his own goal, effectively making the rest of the match little more than a formality.
Austin returns to PDL League play when it hosts Mid-South Division rival Laredo Saturday at House Park. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.