The Brazos Valley Cavalry will head into the USL League 2 playoffs undefeated, having secured at least a point from all 14 games, including Saturday against the AHFC Royals when they claimed a 3-3 draw at Travis Field.
The Cavalry finished 10-0-4 in its third season in Bryan, winning its division for the second straight time. Last year, they lost in the first round of the playoffs. This season, they will go into the Southern Conference playoffs as the top seed and play the highest-ranked second place team from the three divisions.
“We’ve got a good mixture of young guys stepping up playing a bigger role,” Cavalry captain Devin Boyce said. “I feel good under [coach] Kenny [Bundy]. We’ve been organized and everyone wants to fight for one another. I’d like to believe our younger guys can take us far.”
The Cavalry would have to win two matches next weekend to move into the semifinals of the USL League 2 playoffs, which would pit the top team from each conference. The Cavalry likely will travel to Georgia for this weekend’s playoffs.
The Cavalry took one-goal leads on three occasions Saturday but were pulled back each time by the Royals (5-4-5), who finished the season on a seven-game unbeaten run.
“What the boys have shown is even when teams throw everything they have at you, [they rise to the occasion],” Bundy said. “Because, obviously, the better you are and the better results you have, the bigger the bulls-eye gets on your back, and as that bulls-eye has grown, we’ve seen everything thrown at us in last eight games. And tonight was no different. They showed us a problem we haven’t had in 10 games. They high-pressed us, and no one has done that because of the quality we have on the field.”
It was the second straight draw for the Cavalry, who had a penalty kick awarded and then taken away late in Thursday’s game against Corpus Christi FC. On Saturday, the Cavalry’s third goal was waved off because of offside, and then the call was reversed after a long conversation between the linesman and the referee.
Kyle Edwards scored the goal off his left foot on a ball that came back to him from two players going up for a header off a cross from Taubasa Takoda. It was Edwards’ USL League 2 leading 16th goal.
“We appreciate the calls, we appreciate goals that count and I don’t want to be a referee,” said Bundy, who took the same attitude when the call went the other way on Thursday. “It was a good result.”
The Royals tied the game for good in the 84th minute, 21 minutes after the Cavalry had taken the lead.
Marcelo Palomino sent a long ball down to Frenchman Romain Daniellou, who brought it down nicely, took one touch and put it in the path of substitute Mohamed Kenneh, whose left-footed shot hit the bottom of the cross bar and bounced in.
The Cavalry went up 2-1 five minutes into the second half on center back Christian Clark’s header off a corner by Jacob Evans. It was Clark’s third goal and the Cavalry’s 50th of the season.
“For him to be next to a 16 year old [Erick Monge in the center of the back line] and to step into a role when [then captain] Talen Maples left is massive,” Bundy said. “Beginning of the season, he wasn’t playing, coming off bench, and he stuck the course.”
Daniellou again supplied the buildup to the Royals pulling even at 2-2, dribbling past two Cavalry defenders and laying the ball off to Daniel Espinoza, who one-timed a shot into the far corner.
The Cavalry went up 1-0 in the seventh minute when Edwards flicked a shot over keeper Bradyn Knutson’s head into an empty goal. Seven minutes later, Jovan Prado got open near the top of the box, turned and hit a left-footed shot in front of Alex Fetterly and inside the far post for the equalizer.
Despite giving up five goals in the past two matches, the Cavalry had a goal differential of 37 (51-14) on the season.
“Yeah, we conceded more goals [of late], but we still haven’t lost and that is a mentality,” said Bundy, who was surprised by Boyce when he was drenched in Gatorade after the match. “Bottom line is the boys have found a way to win or draw 14 games. That is something that needs to be really, really highlighted.”