Welcome to this week's Aztex update, where I give you an update on Columbus Crew SC's USL affiliate and a recap of the previous week's action.
The Recap: Aztex fall short at home again.
The Aztex dropped a second-straight home match, losing to Arizona United 1-0.
AZ United's scored the match's lone goal in the 49th minute. Brad Stisser, a half-time sub, picked up a deflected kick from the back - a miscue between goalkeeper Devin Rosales and the left back - and fed it to former Vancouver Whitecap forward Long Tan. Tan shot first time, firing the ball by Rosales, banking it off the near post for goal.
The Aztex and United played a scoreless first half with a few shots and not much play that could be considered dangerous from either side. Austin was the dominate team in the first half of the game, but the momentum switched at halftime.
Coach Paul Dalglish thought the Aztex would have plenty of chances to slip behind Arizona's back four -- and they did break through more than the single firsthalf on target shot indicates -- but AZ closed the spaces and Austin could not figure out how to break the defense.
"We're playing against professional players that, when you hurt them, they're going to adapt,"Dalglish said. "They're going to change and they're going to protect. When they dropped off to protect the space in behind, that's when we've got to be clever enough to change our play. We have to be able to function and play between the lines."
Takeaways from this week's match
Inconsistent play at home. Austin came into the game fresh off a 2-0 road victory against the Tulsa Roughnecks and it looked like more of the same would have happened in House Park Saturday night.
The Aztex had a promising first half, keeping compact at the back and getting at least one chance on goal courtesy of Kris Tyrpak. Arizona United goalkeeper Carl Woszczynski went airborne to punch a long ball launch from Lance Rozeboom intended for Sainey Touray, but didn't get enough on it and it fell at Tyrpak's feet. The former Dripping Springs Tiger tried to chip it over the keeper with a one-touch shot that Woszcynski saved with an accurate punch out to kill the dangerous Aztex play.
The Aztex looked unsettled and lacked creativity going forward in the second half and were susceptible to the long ball going back. Four matches deep, it looks like there are two different Aztex teams. Aztex A, which beat Colorado Springs in the home opener and Tulsa on the road, moves forward with quality, attacking play and plays lock down defense. Aztex B, gets beat by the long ball and on the counterattack and rarely threatens the goal.
The inconsistency really shows at home. Austin has allowed four goals and scored zero in the last two home games. Dalglish chalks it up to the nerves of a young team trying to get together.
"This is what we're going to take with young players," Dalglish said. "It's different playing preseason games where there's no pressure and then you come to House Park. Now all of a sudden there's pressure and the games matter. That's why the young players are playing at this level. We have to learn how to deal with that pressure.
"There's always pressure when you play at home. Any team's going to feel pressure. You want the fans to come back and you want the support from the city. It does get kind of frustrating out there when you get chances and don't put them away."
Dalglish sticks with same formation against Arizona United. Dalglish went with the 5-4-1 for a second week in a row with a couple of changes in the lineup. Ryan Roushandel and Drew Yates started in the midfield against AZ United. Guaraci missed the entire match with a knee injury suffered in the Tulsa match.
Dalglish picked this formation to protect against long ball play, after the back four were picked apart by the Whitecaps II and the defensive play has been compact but again, there wasn't quality in the attacking half.
The former Houston Dynamo coach made tactical changes in the 53rd, bringing in Tony Rocha, Andres Cuero and Trevin Garcia and shifting from a back-three to just two center backs to bring more numbers into the Aztex attacking half. I wouldn't be surprised if the team starts out this way this weekend against Los Angeles Galaxy II, as Dalglish said the coaching staff is going to take a look at changing the shape going forward
Whatever happens Saturday will depend on finding someone to combine with Kris Tyrpak. Tyrpak's provided most of the quality going forward and he can't do it alone. Touray played fine in the season opener against the Switchbacks but has disappeared the last two weeks as the lone striker for the Aztex. Dalglish and company will need to figure out how to balance solid attack with a sound defensive core.
The defense remains solid. And it starts with Devin Rosales, one of the few consistent players for Austin in the early stages of the season. He's allowing one goal per game, but he's leading the USL in saves with 14 and not many of them are simple scoop and traps. Don't be surprised if he's in the running for end-of-year honors for his goalkeeping prowess this year. Crew SC loanee Kalen Ryden has also played solid in the back, bringing physicality and a daring style of defense to the back line. Take away the Vancouver game and the defense has been the strong point of the team. Things will really click when the Aztex generate some goals. It will be interesting to see if Dalglish goes forward with the three-back group or switches back to two center-backs.
Kalen Ryden update. Ryden started his fourth straight match of the season, playing in the middle of Austin's three-man back line. He played fine like he has for the majority of the season, save for a turnover going forward in the 39th minute that ultimately wasn't costly. There will be a lineup shuffle of some sort this weekend, but it shouldn't effect Ryden, who's easily been one of the better players on the team this season.
The adjustment to the central defender in the back three has been a little bit of an adjustment for Ryden.
"It's different for me since I've played left center back for so long," Ryden said. "I have a tendency, when I play in the center, to drift to the left but I think I'm just as beneficial playing in the center as I am playing in the left center position."
The Austin Aztex will travel to Los Angeles to take on the LA Galaxy II. The match starts at 7 p.m. on Sunday evening. You can find the match online here. Los Dos average a goal a game but allow two per match and just lost to Sacramento Republic FC 3-0. The Galaxy II sport an 0-3-1 record right now, tied for last in the Western Conference with the Tulsa Roughnecks.