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PHARR, Texas - The playoff chase in the inaugural South Texas Premier Soccer Association’s 18-and-Under Summer League season heated up, and it will get a bit hotter next weekend when four teams fight for two of the last playoff berths remaining.
The regular-season finale will be played on Aug. 13 in Week 10 of Summer League action.
The first two playoff spots were claimed by the league leading Rattlers and second place La Joya in the ninth week of summer play on Saturday. The Rattlers (8-0-1, 24 points) defeated San Benito 3-0 last Saturday in Donna on a pair of goals by Daniel García and another tally by Luis Gómez.
La Joya (6-2-1, 20) was surprised by a scrappy Hormigas squad, who possibly played their best game of the season and had some key saves by their goalkeeper, in a 3-all draw at San Juan Municipal Park. However, the tie and the point associated with it was enough to give La Joya a playoff berth.
Hormigas opened up the scoring on a breakaway goal by STXPSA All-Star Cristian Abrego in the first half. Jesús Martínez and Juan Morales rallied to put La Joya on top 2-1 in the second half, but Abrego equalized in the 55th minute of play.
Mario Morales gave the lead back to La Joya with five minutes remaining in the match, but Alexis López saved the Hormigas with an equalizer two minutes later.
In another match, Indios defeated Potros 2-0 on a pair of tallies by Israel Osuna.
The playoff race will come down to four teams on Aug. 13 when Tigers (6-1-2, 19), Indios (5-2-1, 17), Mission (5-1-3, 16) and España (4-1-4, 16) fight for the remaining two postseason spots.
In the midst of the playoff hunt, the league’s best players also find themselves representing the STXPSA in a two-game interleague All-Star Game series against a team of 18-and-Under All-Stars from Brownsville on Aug. 9 and 16.
The first-leg will be played at the Brownsville Sports Park on Aug. 9 and the second-leg will be held on Aug. 16 at Valley View High School Stadium in Hidalgo. Both games are at 7 p.m.
Prior to the season finale, the Tigers will face Indios in a makeup game on Aug. 11 at 6:30 p.m. at San Juan Municipal Park. The Indios will close out the season on Aug. 13 against the first place Rattlers on Saturday. The two games will have playoff implications for the Mid-Valley team that could either put them in the postseason or just as easily leave them out.
The match between San Benito and Mission in Week 10 at Donna on Saturday at 11:15 a.m. will also determine how the playoff picture shapes up and could have serious for the Upper Valley squad since they are obligated to win in order to qualify.
The playoffs will start on Aug. 20 and held at the San Juan Municipal Park. The semifinals will be played at 9:30 a.m. and 11:15 a.m.
The third place match and the championship game will be played on Aug. 27 at San Juan at 9:30 a.m. and 11:15 a.m., respectively.
In the goal scoring category, Ricky Vargas of the Indios remained the leader with seven goals despite not scoring. Closing in on Vargas is the Rattlers’ Daniel García and Luis Gómez, who reached six tallies after their team’s win over San Benito.