NICK LEYDEN - Monday, May 30, 2011
Greg Garza played the final 21 minutes of Estoril's season in a 1-0 victory at Belenenses while Tony Taylor watched from the stands due to health concerns.
With both teams guaranteed to finish in the bottom half of the Liga Orangina standings regardless of the result, Belenenses and Estoril played out a predictable 90 minutes that was short on imagination.
An Alex Afonso goal in the 53rd minute was all that separated the teams, as Os Canarinhos walked away from the idyllic Estádio do Restelo with all three points.
The hosts started brighter, pressuring the Estoril backline and barely sharing the ball for the opening minutes. But the game soon became a physical battle between the 18 yard boxes with neither team consistently creating scoring chances.
Four times in the first half the referee recorded names and numbers in his book, though unfortunately all four were the result of yellow cards rather than goals.
The second half saw little change in aesthetics, as Afonso's well-taken goal was countered by six additional yellow cards.
Greg Garza entered for Da Cunha in the 69th minute, playing on the left side of midfield in a far more attacking role than US U-20 fans would be accustomed to seeing.
The Texas native hustled on both ends of the field and showed composure on the ball, regularly identifying and connecting on the easy passes. He made no glaring mistakes, nor did he dazzle.
Fellow Yank Tony Taylor had been ruled out of the game, having been limited in practice recently. Along with some of Estoril's other regulars, like Luis Leal and Tiago Costa, the former US youth international watched the game from the stands, constantly shaking hands with the Estoril faithful who took the short train ride to Lisbon's historic Belem district.
The victory put Os Canarinhos on 38 points, finishing the season in ninth place in the 16 team Liga Orangina.