The ATX Pro Challenge finished this past Sunday with 2 games; the consolation game, and the championship game. In the first game, Columbus Crew SC beat the host Austin Aztex 1-0. In the final, D.C. United beat FC Dallas 1-0 to claim the first ATX Pro Challenge championship, taking home the widely talked about armadillo trophy.
Austin Aztex 0 - Columbus Crew SC 1; Third Place Game
My analysis for this game will only consist of play from the second half. Lunch and parking delays due to the Austin Marathon delayed my arrival by about an hour. At halftime the score was 0-0. In the second half the Aztex seemed to have most of the possession but still failed to execute properly in the attacking third, similar to their semi-final game against D.C. United. The Crew were able to break the scoring drought after a cross was tipped into the back of the net by the Crew's Chad Barson. That would be the difference between the 2 sides. After the goal, the Aztex pushed forward aggressively, but were unable to equalize. Columbus captured 3rd place and finished with one win and one loss in the tournament. For the Aztex, the tournament seemed to be a measuring bar for them. They clearly have a lot to improve on, but absolutely showed signs that they could hang with the MLS clubs they faced. Unfortunately, the Aztex left the tournament with 2 losses and no goals to show for it. They were outscored 0-3 in their two games.
The Aztex return to the field later this week to place the Houston Dynamo while the Crew play TP Mazembe of the Linafoot league, the top division in the DR Congo, in the IMG Suncoast Pro Classic in Florida.
FC Dallas 0 - D.C. United 1; Championship Game
The championship game was quiet entertaining even though there was only one goal scored. Although I don't have official stats, it seemed like Dallas and United shared possession pretty equally during the course of the game. Dallas definitely put more pressure on United's defense, especially goal keeper Bill Hamid. Hamid had a handful of great saves throughout the game. While Dallas' goalie, Dan Kennedy, wasn't troubled as often, he was beaten off a great shot by United's Chris Rolfe. Rolfe was just outside the penalty box and hit a curler into the top right 90 to give United the lead, and eventually the win.
My guess is that the armadillo trophy will be one of, if not the most, unique trophy that United have ever won. United's next pre-season game will be a rematch of the ATX Pro Challenge final against FC Dallas in Dallas. I'll Look for Dallas to bring a little revenge factor to this game for missing out on that fabulous prize.
Ah, pre-season...the only time winning a minor trophy can be so important.
A big thanks the the Austin Aztex for hosting a great inaugural tournament, and thanks to the University of Texas at Austin, my alma mater, for allowing it to be played in their soccer stadium - the pitch was beaUTiful! Maybe next year the challenge could be a Texas only tournament; Austin Aztex, San Antonio Scorpions, FC Dallas, & Houston Dynamo...what a tournament that would be!
Thanks to all who followed me this weekend and appreciated my updates!
Friday night in Austin, Texas, the inaugural ATX Pro Challenge tournament kicked off with the two semi-final games. This first edition of the pre-season tournament featured three MLS teams; Columbus Crew SC, D.C. United, & FC Dallas. They were joined by the hosts, & new members of the USL, Austin Aztex. The winner of the tournament will receive this beautiful trophy:
The trophy itself may have stole the show from the actual play on the pitch too, just take a look at these tweets:
We'll see who takes it home on Sunday, but for now, here is my quick analysis of the two games on Friday.
FC Dallas 3 - Columbus Crew SC 1
Not the way the Crew wanted to start out their pre-season campaign. Crew definitely played better than Dallas on the whole, but while they might have had most of the possession, they were not able to capitalize on it. Crew had a few good chances throughout the game and finally got on the scoreboard in the 65' minute. Crew wouldn't be able to reduce the deficit further.
On the other side of the ball, Dallas didn't quite control the ball as much, but they were dangerous on the counter-attack. Dallas were able to maneuver their way, especially down the left-flank, and slice the Crew's defense on a couple of occasions.
Dallas will now play D.C. United in the ATX Pro Challenge Championship game on Sunday at 3:15pm CST while the Crew will play the host, and their new USL affiliate, the Austin Aztex at 1pm CST in the consolation game.
D.C. United 2 - Austin Aztex 0
It wasn't the coming out party that the Aztex had in mind. The newly added USL side had trouble keeping up with the talent of United. The Aztex did start the match off in a brightly fashion, but cooled off relatively quickly. Throughout the game the hosts had a few spurts of success against the MLS side, but couldn't break through. Austin were plagued by a number of off-sides, including one that took back a goal, poor passing, especially in the mid-field, and poor execution in the attacking third when they did have chances.
D.C. United weren't really pushed much during this match. They held possession quite well and were able to break down the Aztex defense for two goals. When the Aztex were threatening, United's defense held very well, none better than goal keeper Bill Hamid's one-handed goal line save from an Aztex corner.
United are now one game away from adding that tremendous trophy to their already packed trophy case. For the Aztex, I think they need to work on their execution if they are going to have a chance to beat the Crew come Sunday.
I will be back in Austin for both the consolation and championship games. You can watch the matches on the Aztex's YouTube site live and by following @AlamoSoccer & @kevinkwc on Twitter.
Reddit user JohnMLTX took the time to place all soccer teams in the major leagues in the U.S. and Canada as of the start of the 2015 season.
Here it is!
Map courtesy of @JohnMLTX
The longest running soccer competition in the U.S. and the third longest in the world released the format that it will run under this year. There aren't many changes to the format except that starting in the Round of 16 a "geographically-based random draw" will be used along with a fixed bracket to the Final. This years Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup will feature a record 91 teams that will battle and whittle down to 2 that will play for the championship on either September 29th or 30th.
The competition starts out with amateur clubs from USASA regional qualifiers, PDL, NPSL, etc in the First Round, USL Pro teams join in the Second Round and play the First Round winners, NASL teams will play those winners in the Third Round, and finally MLS will enter in the Fourth round. Historically, the pairings have been based on geographical proximity to minimize travel for teams, but that hasn't always been the case. NASL side Carolina Railhawks have, for the past 3 years, played the LA Galaxy from MLS. Even though they are 2,500 miles apart, they always seem to be paired-up against each other; the Railhawks have also gone 3-0 in those contests against the 5-time MLS Cup winners. I think the Galaxy took notice...
The San Antonio Scorpions have played NTX Rayados, Laredo Heat, FC Tucson, Charlotte Eagles, FC Dallas, & Houston Dynamo since their first entrance into the competition. It's pretty safe to say that the earlier rounds will also produce match-ups between geographically close clubs. The Scorpions most likely opponents in the Third Round are familiar foes (NTX Rayados, Laredo Heat) in addition to USL Pro side, Austin Aztex. Should they advance, a match against FC Dallas or Houston Dynamo would be the most likely scenario. The furthest that the Scorpions have advanced in the tournament is the Fourth Round but will be looking to make a deep run in the tournament this year.
While the Cup gives lower division teams the opportunity to beat MLS teams, MLS teams have dominated the Cup since the league's beginning in 1996; however, the Rochester Rhinos won it all in 1999 & the last non-MLS team to make the Final was the Charleston Battery in 2008 when they lost 1-2 to D.C. United. The Cup happens during the MLS/NASL/USLPro regular seasons so some teams don't always put their best side forward. From blogs and posts that I've seen, it seems that there is a push from supporters to have their clubs take the competition more seriously than they historically have. I am in full support of teams trying their best to win the Cup. There isn't another tournament that gives clubs from all levels the chance to prove themselves against the "Big Boys" in the U.S.
It is rumored that Fox Sports will broadcast the Final live for the 2015 edition of the Cup. This is a great first step to getting more exposure to the tournament and garner more fan interest of soccer in the U.S. It is a great way to grow the game & I encourage you to watch as many of these games as you possibly can. You never know what is going to happen. It's a great opportunity to witness a Cinderella story!
If you want to find out more about the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, visit:
Soccer On -ASC
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