Junior midfielder Julio Rivera’s header with just 10 seconds left in the match lifted the Texas City Stings to a 3-2 win over the Crosby Cougars in the teams’ Region III-5A area round playoff contest Friday.
“I’m proud of their work ethic, their dedication, their commitment, their attitude,” Texas City head coach Steve Allan said. “They play above their years; they really do.”
With under 6 minutes remaining in the match, the Stings looked fully in control, thwarting Crosby’s attack with a stifling defense and holding a 2-0 lead. But then, a questionable foul call against Texas City saw Crosby awarded a penalty kick, which was buried by Bernardo Hernandez.
“The referee had a fantastic game; he’s the best ref we’ve seen this season, but he gave them a very soft penalty with 5 minutes to go,” Allan said. “There wasn’t a player on the field who wasn’t surprised — and I’m including them — that a penalty was given for that. Harsh, to say the least. Then, once that goal was in, the momentum swung.”
With a little more than 1 minute left in regulation, Crosby’s Fabian Delgado finally broke through the Stings’ defense to boot a ball into the back of the net and tie the match, 2-2.
Rather than settle for overtime, Texas City pushed forward, and a lob into the 18-yard box found the head of Rivera, who deftly flicked the ball past the goalkeeper for the match-winning score.
“As a coach, I’m planning my starting lineup for overtime, but I guess Julio Rivera had other ideas, and he went and got the winner and sent us all home early,” Allan said.
Each team had some solid opportunities to break through onto the scoreboard in the first half, but took a scoreless tie into the break.
Texas City continued to knock on the door early in the second half, and then a hard tackle by Crosby inside the box resulted in a penalty kick for the Stings, which senior goalkeeper Eric Ramirez put away for a 1-0 lead in the second half’s 22nd minute.
Roughly 6 minutes later, a well-placed corner kick found senior defender Rylan Hara, who got a touch on the ball for his first career goal.
The Stings advance to the third round of the playoffs for the second consecutive year, where they will face Kingwood Park at a time, date and location to be determined.