It was fitting that the first regular season home match for John Tyler and Robert E. Lee was on the new Earl Campbell soccer-ready turf field at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium.
With vuvuzelas providing a continual rhythm and tackles flying in from all directions by both teams, the one and only clash between the cross-town rivals lived up to the hype and provided plenty of goals.
John Tyler eventually emerged with a 3-1 victory, thanks to two goals by Aron Alonso and several high-wire act saves by senior keeper Daniel Montoya. The Lions led 2-1 at halftime and added their all-important third goal with 13 minutes remaining on a beautiful volleyed shot by Alonso.
“I really think it was back and forth and at times Robert E. Lee looked scary and at times we looked scary,” JT coach Howard Story said. “We just had the better of the night.”
Lee’s goal came on a blistering free kick by senior Lumi Kaba midway through the first half. It was Kaba’s 10th goal of the season and evened up the score at 1-1.
The first of Alonso’s two goals followed five minutes later to put JT in front for good.
“It was physical and I don’t think it was malicious by either one, but the difference was finishing,” Lee coach Marty Germany said. “JT’s goalkeeper came up with a couple of big saves in the first half and then came up with (a few more) in the second half. The just did well in the back and got a little fortunate at times too and we were unlucky with our finishing.”
The win for John Tyler raises the Lions record to 6-1 with Lee dropping to 4-3.
Both teams negated the other with the game’s opening 10 minutes featuring more fouls than attempts on goal.
Lee’s Uriel Chavez nearly ended the stalemate with a goal after a clearing ball came to him and he blistered a low shot that forced Montoya to make a diving save.
The match seemed to liven up after that when a high bounce eluded Lee’s defense and John Tyler’s Daniel Nieto let loose a wayward shot. A few minutes after that opportunity, JT again got possession in Lee’s penalty box and this time made it count.
Naid Pineda hit a shot that was blocked by a Lee player with the rebound landing between him and Lee keeper Henry Plancarte. Pineda won the race for the 50/50 ball and muscled it past Plancarte to give JT a 1-0 lead with 19 minutes remaining in the half.
It took less than a minute for Lee to equalize, thanks to a brilliantly taken free kick from Kaba that flew over the JT wall and into the top left corner of the net.
The Lions went back on top five minutes later with Alonso benefiting from a great cross into the box by Jose Valdez. Plancarte got a hand to it, but the ball continued to spin toward the net with Alonso placed perfectly to make sure.
JT nearly made it 3-1 if not for a Plancarte save.
Then it was time for Montoya to spring into action with the JT keeper thwarting a header from Lee’s Noel Aparicio by tipping it over the crossbar to keep it 2-1 Lions at halftime.
REL nearly equalized in the opening seconds of the second half if not for another save by Montoya, this time denying Case Carnes.
The Red Raiders thought they did have the second goal in the 33rd minute when Sergio Molina ghosted and scored on a volley, but it was ruled offside.
Montoya spent the rest of the half keeping Kaba from adding to his goal tally, twice racing in to secure the ball on breakaways.
On the one time he misjudged his run and was caught in no-man’s land off his line, Montoya made himself big with Kaba’s shot blocked by Montoya’s head.
Lee was left to rue its missed chances with Alonso providing the final touches with his goal to secure a victory for JT.
Both JT and Lee coaches will take positives from the match.
“It was a good, passionate Robert E. Lee-John Tyler game and it was a thrill for us,” Story said.
Germany added the fans should be commended as well.
“I don’t know how many fans we had here, but I want to compliment the soccer fans of Tyler. It’s Lee and John Tyler and they have a great facility now to play and the fact that they showed up showed it was worth the effort to (get this soccer field here),” Germany said.