Making the most of scoring opportunities has not been a strong characteristic of the A&M Consolidated boys soccer team this season.
But Consol tied crosstown rival Rudder 1-1 on Tuesday thanks to an opportune strike late in the match that rescued what seemed to be another sure tally in the loss column.
With under two minutes to play in the District 19-5A match at Tigerland Stadium, Consol’s Jude Lake flicked a pass through Rudder’s defense to the top of the 6-yard box, and Connor Buche slid to knock it in and tie the match.
Consol head coach Jarrod Southern, who acknowledged the Tigers struggle with finding the finishing touch, caught himself running out to the football numbers celebrating the score.
“The boys, they’ve worked so hard,” Southern said. “Tonight, we were the architects of our own failure. We didn’t create enough chances going forward. Thankfully, the one good chance we got in the second half ... that one we hit it in.”
The Tigers controlled possession and shots through most of the first half, somewhat by design. Rudder (4-7-2, 1-3-1) sat back on defense, allowing Consol (1-4-3, 1-1-2) plays to develop, while the Rangers’ three forwards stood ready to break on the counterattack.
“Tonight we had some speedy guys in there that were able to break through and get that,” Rudder head coach Dane Seydler said. “We found that we could send the ball through there and let them take care of it with their legs.”
Southern said he was somewhat surprised at Rudder’s defensive alignment.
“That low block just causes us to panic, and when we settled down, we knocked it around,” Southern said. “We had such a good chance right at the end.”
Two Consol chances went by the wayside in the first half, including a header by Zach Rich that missed high just over the bar and a well-played free kick by Bryce Marianno that just missed the foot of a streaking Rich to the back post thanks to a savvy defensive play.
Rudder first showed signs of changing the tide as the final seconds ticked off the first half. The Rangers used a turnover to spring Rogelio Martinez past the Consol backline on a break. Before Martinez could take shot, however, the Tigers tackled him in the penalty box to end the scoring threat.
The Rangers began the second half with full control of possession, producing two quick scoring chances.
The first came when Rudder’s Angel Garcia-Huerta led Ignacio Alvarez with a pass down the left channel and behind Consol’s defense. Alvarez sent it back across goal to Martinez inside the penalty box, and Martinez quickly sent it back to Alvarez, who took a tough-angled shot that hit the post but not in.
Eight minutes later, Rudder finally broke through. Garcia-Huerta chipped a pass from the Rangers’ compacted defense at midfield over the Tiger defense and connected with a streaking Martinez. The striker juked oncoming goalkeeper Connor Guierrieri and finished with a low tap into the net for a 1-0 lead.
Southern said he shifted from a four-man backline to three in an effort to provide more assistance on the attack. The move opened up space for the Rangers to pounce.
“It was a bit of a sucker punch as you make an attacking change and then you get scored on, but credit to the boys for at least getting a point,” Southern said.
After the goal, Rudder fell back into its low block to preserve the lead, allowing Consol a few more late chances. With six minutes left, Buche sent a cross to William Askew in the middle of the box. Askew attempted a side-footed chip over the left shoulder of Rudder goalkeeper Jesus Ortiz, but Ortiz made a finger-tip save and covered the ball to stop the attack.
Ortiz finished with five saves.
Right before Consol’s equalizing goal, Southern turned to Lake off the bench, replacing a Tiger player who received a yellow card. After suffering a season-ending ACL injury during football season, Lake has played sparingly as he continues to recover.
“When my player got a yellow card, I was like, ‘We’re just going to make something happen,’ and thankfully he did,” Southern said.
Ultimately, it was Lake’s service to a sliding Buche that saved a point for Consol.
“Obviously, the outcome wasn’t exactly what we wanted,” Seydler said. “They fought hard and we wanted a few more goals.”