By Michael Sherfield
Despite falling behind early against the defending USL-1 champion, the Austin Aztex were left ruing a 1-1 draw against Vancouver on Tuesday night at Nelson Field. For the second time in three days, Austin fought back from a goal deficit to pull level in the second half, but couldn't find a game winner.
"I'm quite disappointed that we've played two games and only got two points," said Aztex forward Gifton Noel-Williams, who scored in the 67th minute. "I think we've deserved more."
A bright start from the Aztex was quickly wiped out by a Vancouver goal straight from the training ground. After a right wing cross was deflected out of bounds, Vancouver winger Wes Knight launched a throw-in into the Austin box for defender Marco Reda to head home at the far post in the 19th minute.
"I was very disappointed with some of the aspects of our play in the first half," Austin coach Adrian Heath said. "Marking for the first goal was nonexistent; it was something we'd spoken about, long throws, and the first one they had they get a free header in the six-yard box."
The goal signaled the start of Vancouver's dominance for much of the rest of the half. Austin almost found itself down two goals before halftime as Whitecaps striker Charles Gbeite twice came close, only to push shots wide in the 25th and 31st minutes.
For the second time in three days, though, a second-half substitution by Heath started the Austin comeback.
Held out of the starting lineup by an ankle injury, Aztex striker Noel-Williams quickly made his mark after coming on at halftime. After volleying wide from a Sullivan Silva cross in the 50th minute, he found his range in the 67th, steering home Silva's corner from six yards out for his first goal of the season.
In the second half, Vancouver midfielder Martin Nash — the brother of NBA guard and Whitecaps team owner Steve Nash — almost found the back of the net from fully 55 yards, lobbing goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo, only to see his ambitious effort drift inches over the goal.
Whitecaps coach Teitur Thordarson, who has seen his team open its title defense with a loss and two draws, was not impressed.
"The second half was a disappointment for me," he said. "We let them come at us all the time, we gave them the initiative."