Tuesday, August 6, 2013
AUSTIN, Texas – As he surveyed the field, and took in the celebration of his players and the fans that remained well after the final whistle, Austin Aztex coach Paul Dalglish took a moment to reflect on how far the club had come in two seasons.
“When Dave Markley wanted to bring the organization back, it was to provide opportunities for local players,” he said. “A lot of PDL teams have players from all over the country, and I think there are so many players on our team who grew up playing their soccer in Austin, and if it wasn’t in Austin, it was in Texas. So for me, seeing Zack Pope in tears at the end of it, it shows how much it means to bring a championship to Austin, and that’s who it’s for today, the guys that have grown up in this community and now have a national championship, and also the supporters that come out and basically make this all possible, because without them buying tickets, this doesn’t happen.”
The crowd of 4,253 that packed into House Park on Sunday night was the biggest for the PDL Championship Game since 2007, when more than 6,600 saw the Laredo Heat defeat the Michigan Bucks in a penalty shootout. The atmosphere was electric for the entire weekend, which saw more than 7,300 fans attend both the semifinals and the final, setting and re-setting the club’s attendance record in the process.
They, and the approximately 5,100 fans who watched the championship weekend’s three games online, including nearly 2,500 fans who tuned in to watch Sunday’s championship game, were treated to top-level action, with a number of players who might take their talents to Major League Soccer in the coming years. One of those was Kris Tyrpak, a native of Austin, who was outstanding in both contests to back up his PDL Most Valuable Player award announced on Saturday night.
“It’s huge,” Tyrpak said. “Being our second year, coming back from what happened to our first team, last year was good, and this year we wanted to go on. The fans were behind us, the staff was behind us, everybody played for each other and it’s just amazing. Hopefully it’s the stepping stone for more championships in the future for us.”
The star of the show, and of the playoffs for the Aztex, though, was forward Sito Seoane. Born in Miami, Seoane grew up in Spain, and had a postseason to remember as he scored the game-winning goal in each of Austin’s four victories.
“He’s had an amazing national tournament,” Tyrpak said. “It’s made the difference between us winning and losing games. He didn’t score as many during the season, but he was always a constant threat, and he just buried his opportunities for us in the playoffs.”
Seoane had four goals and four assists in 12 appearances for the Aztex in the regular season, but finished with five goals in four games in the postseason. After pulling his side level with a penalty kick after a dramatic opening five minutes, his second goal of the game showed the sort of chemistry Austin had been able to build as it entered the playoffs.
“It’s a short season, and it takes time to get everyone on the same page,” Dalglish said. “Especially in the PDL when if you’re in the Open Cup you go game, game, game, game, you don’t have that many training days, so it was really toward the end of the season that we really got in our groove, found our form at the right time, and Sito was a big part of it.”
Things certainly could have gone differently in the final. After an early goal by Thunder Bay had silenced the home crowd, and sent the Chill’s pocket of fans into celebration, Austin needed a spark to get back into the game. It was provided by Tony Rocha, set to star for Tulsa as a junior this fall, whose incisive pass sent Tyrpak through on goal. Chill goalkeeper Stephen Paterson’s foul, and subsequent red card, proved to be the game’s critical moment as Austin rallied to take a memorable victory.
“It’s unbelievable,” Tyrpak said. “The MVP award was amazing to win, but this is even better. We’ve been working for this all year, and to win it in front of your home fans, in front of a record attendance, is just unbelievable.”
As the players circled the field and signed autographs for the youngsters that one day might follow in their footsteps for the Aztex, the fans drifted away to continue the celebration on a night none in attendance will ever forget.