With just two games remaining in the regular season, the Aztex (8-4-2) are as hot as any of the 73 teams in the Premier Development League and could clinch a playoff berth with a win in their final two games.
Composed of mostly college athletes who are on summer break, the Aztex are currently in second place in the Mid South Division of the league’s Southern Conference with 26 points.
In their season finale at House Park this past weekend, the Aztex treated the crowd of nearly 2,000 to a 7-0 drubbing of the lowly West Texas Sockers (2-6-6). The win was the fifth time the Aztex have scored more than three goals in a game this season, all of which have resulted in wins. In the past two games alone, the Aztex have scored a total of 13 goals, while only allowing one.
A big part of this late season surge can be accredited to the play of two young forwards, Kris Tyrpak and Kekuta Manneh.
Tyrpak currently attends Houston Baptist University on a soccer scholarship and said he is glad to have the opportunity to showcase his talent during the summer months.
“All the top players from Division I, II and III colleges come to the PDL, and the teams are loaded with talent,” said Tyrpak.
The 20-year-old Dripping Springs High School graduate is a rising amateur star within the league and currently sits in third place for overall points scored this season with 23. In the 7-0 win to close out the regular season home schedule, he scored early and often, resulting in his second hat trick of the year. His first came in the home opener against the El Paso Patriots in May.
“It feels good to end the season at home with a hat trick like that,” Tyrpak said. Even with a 4-0 halftime lead over the Sockers, Tyrpak said head coach Paul Dalglish told the team to “keep it classy, don’t do anything stupid and try to get a couple more goals for the fans.”
Tyrpak’s partner in crime at forward, 17-year-old Kekuta Manneh, has already caught the eye of the Los Angeles Galaxy of the MLS, who invited the Lake Travis High junior out to L.A. for a week of practice at the beginning of the summer.
“They just wanted me to practice with the team and see how I fit in,” Manneh said. “I would love to play soccer for a living, but for now, my focus is on school.”
In just 11 games this year, Manneh has scored 10 goals and notched nine assists.
“It’s a good experience playing with Kekuta, because I know he’s going to go on to do bigger and better things at the highest level of soccer,” Tyrpak said. “It’s an honor to play alongside him.”
The duo of Tyrpak and Manneh has asserted itself as two of the most productive players in the Premier Development League. If they decide to continue to play with the Aztex in coming years, they could help the club establish a national presence and foster future player development.
As of now, the Aztex have their sights set on the playoffs, which will pit them against a Southeast Division opponent. The top two teams from each of the nine divisions of the league will advance to the playoffs in which the higher-seeded team gets home field advantage.
The Aztex are also the league leaders in goals scored at home with 25, so they would relish the opportunity of a home playoff game.
“We are looking forward to the playoffs, but we still have some work to do to be in the best position,” Manneh said. “Hopefully we can come back to play some games at home — the crowd really gets behind us.”