Cowboys top Chargers in penalty kicks

The atmosphere felt like a playoff game when the Brownsville Porter Cowboys played host to the Brownsville Veterans Memorial Chargers on Wednesday night, with the Cowboys taking a 4-3 victory after penalty kicks (4-2).

The first half was an evenly matched affair in which the teams exchanged goals and headed to halftime tied at 2. Porter took its first lead of the game during the 11th minute of the second half on a rebound goal by Jose Mateos.

The Cowboys’ defense played tough and kept the Brownsville Veterans attack at bay for the majority of the half, but the Chargers showed they would not be stopped as the clock wound down.

With just more than one minute remaining in regulation, Brownsville Veterans tied the game at 3. After a corner kick that got bounced around in the box by both teams, Chargers sophomore Victor Sepulveda sent the ball into the net and his teammates into a frenzy.

Porter earned the victory after a penalty shootout. Cowboys goalkeeper Isaac Acevedo made a great save against Brownsville Veterans’ second kicker, and after a wild kick by the fourth, Porter got its chance to put away the win. Mateos came up big again, sending the ball past the goalie to seal the deal for the Cowboys.

“Happy with the way the kids played. We knew this was like a playoff game. Veterans is going to make it far in the playoffs, so it was a good test for us to prepare and it was an exciting game,” Porter coach Jose Espitia said. “Overall, it’s a good booster for us before the playoffs to be able to come out and beat a team like them. It’s a crosstown rival, Veterans has been a very successful program in the past few years. So to play a game like this is motivation, and the fans were great.”

Brownsville Veterans got off to a quick start with Cesar Cepeda, Humberto Sosa and Alejandro Castro leading the way. Sosa challenged Porter’s defense in front of the net throughout the night and made it 2-1 in favor of the Chargers with 19 minutes remaining in the first half. Chargers coach Alberto Vasquez felt playing as a team and taking advantage of space were some things his team did well to jump on top early.

The Chargers’ defense did well to keep Porter’s offense at bay for most of the first half, after a goal by Alessandro Lara off a corner kick to tie the game at 1. Lara tied things up again with 8 minutes remaining in the half on a rocket kick following a penalty.

Porter came out fired up and played with urgency during the second half. The Cowboys controlled possession and their defense, aided by Jose Machuca, Allen Lane and Ricardo Vidal, kept the Chargers from getting many scoring opportunities. Brandon Montes and Julian Gallegos led the effort up front, and Acevedo made good saves throughout the half.

“In the first half Veterans came out and pressured a lot, and we were able to withstand that,” Espitia said. “In the second half, we came out better to control the midfield even though we had the wind against us. I felt we played a better second half than what we did in the first. (At halftime) we discussed with them several things we thought we could do better. The kids got excited, and it worked for us. They came out very motivated, we just couldn’t put the game away. You can’t make mistakes against a team like Veterans.”

Though they couldn’t put the game away in regulation, the Cowboys clinched the big win as Montes, Gallegos, Martin Gonzalez and Mateos converted their penalty kicks to take the shootout 4-2.

With the clock winding down, Brownsville Veterans’ offensive attack got significantly more aggressive, leading to Sepulveda’s game-tying goal. Castro and Jose Muniz both made their penalty kicks to keep the Chargers alive during the shootout. Despite the loss, Vasquez was pleased with the way the Chargers played and how they battled back to secure an important point in the District 32-5A race.

“We understood before the game started that we’re pretty evenly matched. They’re a great team, and I think we have a great team, too,” Vasquez said. “I was extremely proud of our kids that they kept fighting all the way to the end and we got the tie, and I believe with this point that we acquired here, even though we lost in PKs, I think we still maintained ourselves in the (district) lead. It was just one of those very exciting games for everybody.”