The Austin Aztex played the Charleston Battery Friday, losing in a 2-0 shellacking. It wasn’t a huge surprise, as the Battery are very good, and the Aztex are new to the USL-1. However, the effort was there for the Aztex, which means more to me after watching the USA National team sleep through their game against Costa Rica recently. The Aztex seemed to push the ball far more aggressively than the US team did, unfortunately they really did seem to be just physically outmatched at most positions.
Overall the game was an enjoyable experience, I got to see some things I never would have on TV, with my favorite experience being the poor distracted ball boy. We were sitting near the Charleston goal about midway through the second half, with the Aztex attacking. The ball was kicked into the stands by a Battery defender and rather than immediately feed the Aztex the ball for a quick throw in before the defense got set up, the poor ball boy tracked the flight of the ball into the stands. He was completely oblivious to the crowd and Aztex player as they screamed for him to provide a ball to the player. Hilarity ensued as the ball boy freaked out , threw a new ball to the player, and then refused to look at the crowd for the rest of the game.
While it was a sizable defeat to the Aztex, their faithful Chantico’s Army did not let that discourage them from supporting their team for the duration of the game and beyond. They banged their drums and played their trumpets trying to coax their team to even greater effort. The Aztex cheers and drumming was highly reminiscent of what I saw the Costa Rican crowd do in their match against the USA. Unfortunately, for all of Chantico’s Army’s efforts, it didn’t seem to get the rest of the crowd as involved in the game as one would hope. When San Antonio gets a soccer team I think we could learn from this and try to develop ways to get the whole crowd involved, perhaps through something similar to the college games, where they have appointed cheer leaders spread throughout the stands, where they could teach the chants and cheers so even new fans would have the chance to learn and participate in them.
With all that said, the best part of the game was the crowd that went along with it. There were some very nice people from both the Crocketteers and Aztex supporters . Crocketteers Daniel and James were both highly helpful in explaining some points about the more technical aspects of the game and the business side of the game. After the game, the Crocketteers were invited to the semi-official gathering place of the Aztex, Cuatros, which was more fun than a barrel of monkeys in a hot tub. If you ever get a chance to go to a Crocketteers event, know that you are going to be hanging out with some quality folks.
Overall, while I still wouldn’t rate soccer as my favorite sport in the world, after watching 180 minutes of it in the last few days, I certainly don’t find it quite is repellant as I may have before. There is a flow to the game that certain American sports (football, baseball) can’t quite match, although those sports certainly have their own redeeming qualities. I still doubt that I will be watching soccer all the time, but now, I certainly won’t be so quick to turn the TV off.