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Edinburg Vela looked more like the SaberCats of old on Friday night, a team that peppers goalies, gambles with pressure on offense and moves players all over the field into different positions, trying to cause confusion.

But the team that never seems to see a shot they don’t like to take, took the right ones  Friday as Alma Gutierrez scored three time, two with headers and Vela rallied from a 3-1 deficit to capture a 4-3 win over McAllen Rowe in District 31-5A girls soccer action at McAllen Rowe.

The win improves Vela to 3-1-1 with 11 points, one point ahead of Sharyland High, also at 3-1-1. Vela defeated Sharyland in shootout PKs last week. Rowe fell to 2-2-1 and has seven points. McAllen Memorial leads the district with a 5-0-0 record (15 points) and McAllen High is second at 4-1-0 (12 points).

They wanted it and it was a good game to get on top, to stay in the fight for the district,” Vela head coach Americo Cortez said. “We worked for it at practice and at halftime the girls were really confident, saying they were the better team and ‘let’s stop fouling and play soccer.

“We told them they needed to pass the ball around and get them tired, and we made them run a lot and they got tires.”

Edinburg Vela’s Nataly De Leon, left, battles for control against McAllen Rowe’s Madiln Vega, right, during a game at McAllen Rowe High soccer field Friday, Jan. 26 2024 in McAllen. (Delcia Lopez| [email protected])

Rowe had taken a 2-0 lead with a pair of goals from Sophia San Miguel, getting behind a defense that is equally offensive minded. She secured her first goal with a nifty tap over an oncoming goalkeeper. Camila Gil then a perfectly times long through pass to a streaking San Miguel to juked the keeper with 19:54 remaining for a 2-0 lead.

Unfortunately for Rowe, San Miguel suffered an apparent knee injury and left the game. She will be evaluated as to the extent of the injury.

Gutierrez, a junior made it 2-1 with 11:25 remaining in the first half after Vela took multiple runs at Rowe keeper Dabrina Garcia, who saved everything – but the SaberCats kept coming and Gutierrez crosses a shot at the only possible extreme angle on front of the net on one end to the other post.

“I have her in two positions,” Cortez said. “She’ll play defensive center back and she’s one of my forwards. I wanted to put her in the back because of the speed they had but needed her at top so we could put pressure on the defense and she ends up with two headers and another goal. She’s a shooter for sure.”

After her three-goal evening, Gutierrez has eight district goals. She scored the game-winner on her second header of the evening with 4:24 remaining on a perfect corner kick from Sofia Garza.

McAllen Rowe’s Sari Cano and Hariett Perez celebrate with Camila Gil (middle) after Gil scored a goal from 65 yards against Edinburg Vela, at McAllen Rowe High soccer field Friday, Jan. 26 2024 in McAllen. (Delcia Lopez| [email protected])

Gil once again showed off her powerful and accurate right leg, scoring a goal from 65 yards off an indirect kick tapped back to her from Bella Hernandez with 9:30 left in the half for a 3-1 lead.

“Sometimes we’ve struggled but we’re getting there,” Cortez said. “They are playing better and playing full games. This was a big win, a comeback like this. Mentally this will bring up our self esteem. Now they know they can play with anybody in this district.”

Vela returns to action at home Tuesday against PSJA North then Friday at McAllen High. Meanwhile, Rowe travels to face Sharyland on Tuesday before hosting Valley View on Friday. Games start at 8 p.m.

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