The Brazos Valley Cavalry players were contemplating who would take an 87th minute penalty kick that would give them the lead, and before they could decide, the rug was pulled out from under them.
Three minutes after substitute Jacob Evans was brought down in the penalty box and the referee pointed at the penalty spot, the linesman and head official came together and the ball was moved to the corner of the 6-yard box for a goal kick. The Cavalry was looking to take its third lead of the match but had to settle for a 2-2 draw with Corpus Christi on Thursday night at Travis Field.
It was not clear why the decision was reversed.
“Honestly, the one job in this world that I do not want to have is being a referee,” Brazos Valley coach Kenny Bundy said. “If I’m honest, I’m not worried about that. We created enough chances to score enough goals to win the game. So if we look at the game and are frustrated about anything it’s not that call. It’s the fact we had two or three opportunities to seal the game, make it 3-1.”
Bundy has a little more freedom to take that approach with his team having already clinched the playoff berth in the Mid South Division of the USL League 2 Southern Conference at 10-0-3. Corpus Christi (7-4-2), with one game in hand, pulled even at 23 points with Mississippi Brilla in second place.
The Cavalry play their final regular season game against the AHFC Royals at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Travis Field.
Dom Faletto put the Cavalry up 2-1 in the 67th minute, heading in a ball from a close but sharp angle, after right back Jon Rico-Contreras got forward into the penalty box and had a shot deflect wide.
The Cavalry continued to press after taking the lead and had two opportunities that a good percentage of the time would have found the back of the net.
Kyle Edwards, who leads USL League 2 with 12 goals, got free when Corpus Christi tried an offside trap that didn’t work, and he thumped the ball high from just inside the penalty box.
Four minutes later Faletto did all the hard work to get into the box, dribbling by two defenders, and with only the keeper to beat, slotted his shot wide to the near post.
“It’s a long season, right, and we have been very fortunate as a staff and as fans to see 17 guys score and almost have 50 goals in 13 games,” Bundy said. “I think it is one of those that you’d bet money that that kid is going to score, and I feel for those guys because they want to do this more than anything.”
In between, Corpus Christi made the Cavalry pay for the misses when substitute Noah Wagner got free after a Cavalry defender went down and flicked the ball over keeper Alex Federly, who had come a long way off his line. The shot went so high it bounced before the goal line and bounced into the roof of the net.
The Cavalry had a couple of half chances after the penalty kick was waved off with veteran Mason Schuster and Danny Rios, in his debut, hooking up a couple of times and forcing saves from Mark Pelaez.
The Cavalry took a 1-0 lead 4 minutes into the game on a header by Cyrus Harmon off a hard cross by Tsubasa Takada from the left wing. The sequence started with a through ball from left-back Andre Hardware-Rivers.
“I would take that back 45 seconds earlier and that goal is why we are successful,” Bundy said. “That was a team goal with where the ball starts and where it rotates to and where it ends up is a byproduct of that. And then Cyrus’ finish is fantastic. I’m happy for him because he deserves some of these chances to go in.”
Corpus Christi squared the match at 1-1 with its own header on a corner. Tevin Lessey, who had to leave not long after with an injury, got above everyone on a long corner and beat Cavalry keeper Federly to the near post. At the time it was only the 12th goal the Cavalry had given up in 13 games. At least six of them have come on set pieces.
The only other true opportunities Corpus Christi had was on a giveaway by Christian Clarke that gave Salifa Jatta two bites of the apple from midrange. The first shot was saved by Palaez and the rebound shot deflected off a player in the 6-yard box.
The Cavalry had a handful of chances in the opening 45 minutes after their goal.
The first came nearly immediately after Brazos Valley opened the scoring. Rico-Contreras hit a shot flush with his left foot after a flick on from 23 that that the keeper had to dive to save.
Palaez had to make two more diving saves before the half ended. Takada hit a free kick from 30 yards that was ticketed for the lower far corner and punched away and Edwards pulled back a pass from Devon Boyce, the team leader in assists, put it on his left foot and forced the keeper to make a save.