NEW ORLEANS - Three minutes was all it took to produce what would be the only goal of the game in a 1-0 win for the Chivas El Paso Patriots over the New Orleans Jesters on a hot Saturday night at Pan American Stadium.
Michael Griego headed in a cross that was directed toward the far post in the 3rd minute to make the ultimate difference in the match for the Patriots.
The pass was placed perfectly and Grigeo finished the job for his first goal of the season in just his second match for the Patriots who just came off a tough loss in a penalty shootout to Kitsap in the U.S. Open Cup earlier this week.
Coming into the night, both sides were dealing with roster issues. For El Paso (7-3-0), they only had 3 reserves available on their bench to start the match. For New Orleans, they were missing big scorers in Patrick Mullins and Paris Simmons.
Also, Brandon Tyler missed the match due to an injury suffered in training earlier this week. That put more of the pressure on Reece Wilson and Emmanuel Yamson to help produce for the attack for the Jesters. And though both struggled early, the playmakers settled into a rhythm as the match progressed. "We changed the formation at halftime to fit Reece better. He was not as sharp coming off the injury," said Jesters head coach Kenny Farrell.
After a mostly uneventful 1st half outside of the early goal, the Jesters (5-3-0) exhibited more control in the 2nd half. It started in the 52nd minute when Yamson had a header in the box that he spun just wide of goal. "I thought we dominated most of the game. We created chances. It comes down to us being slightly under strength and execution," added Farrell.
The Jesters nearly equalized in the 85th minute after getting some better build-up in their play throughout the final half. James Burgin crossed a ball in that Yamson got his head to, but somehow, Patriots keeper, Jorge Muniz got his fingertips to the ball to deflect it away for a corner.
However, one last chance saw Tony Judice (who subbed in for Stuart Kirk in the 62nd minute), take a crack at goal only to have it hit his own man in front of the net. The Patriots cleared danger, and the Jesters could get no closer as the final minutes ticked away.
Said Wilson about the adjustments made to become more efficient in the 2nd half, "We struggled with the gaps between the forwards and midfielders. We had to bring on a more natural midfielder. Still we gave ourselves a hill to climb early."
For the Jesters, Jordan Lower got the start in goal tonight and overall didn't have much to do after the early tally scored against him. Lower was a bit shaky in dealing with clearances in the 2nd half, but overall Farrell was pleased with his performance. "I thought there were one or two times he could have kept the ball in play, but that wasn't the story of the game. The story was missed chances."
Farrell was also impressed with his side's ability to contain Patriots forward, Rodrigo Morin who entered the match with the most goals (5) of anyone on the El Paso roster. "He's a super player, top class. But how much damage did he do tonight?"
With the loss, the Jesters remain in 3rd place with a home match against the Baton Rouge Capitals next up on Saturday, June 25th at Pan American Stadium.
For tonight though, Farrell and his crew could not manage to dig out of an early spot of trouble despite looking the better and more aggressive side in the final moments of the match. Added Wilson on the guys who had to miss tonight, "We had a couple of people out, but we have a big enough squad that it shouldn't effect us, but maybe it did quality wise."
After securing the full 3 points, the Patriots now have moved into a tie for first in the Mid South Division with the Laredo Heat.