By Jason Mack/Laredo Heat SC
After traveling from Aberdeen, Scotland to San Antonio together years ago to team up at St. Mary’s University, heading a couple hours south on I-35 to team up again with the Laredo Heat SC was a no-brainer for defenders Liam Morrison and Lewis Wilson.
The culture shock of trading Scotland for South Texas was significant, but Morrison and Wilson have had each other’s back every step of the way despite constantly giving each other a hard time. They met playing for the Aberdeen club team as teenagers, and they came to America together a few years ago where they were recruited by St. Mary’s after participating in a showcase event.
“He is like a brother by now,” Morrison said. “It makes it easier. It’s a piece of home.”
“It makes it so much easier,” Wilson said. “As much as we give each other schtick, it is so easy. Going into a new environment, you are normally in your shell. Some boys take a few days, some take a few weeks. Both of us being here today definitely makes life easy. You can transition into any culture. For the past few years we have done the same everything. It makes life easier.”
Part of the culture shock is giving up the comforts of home. Aside from obviously missing their families, Morrison most misses a Scottish soft drink called Irn-Bru while Wilson misses walking on the Aberdeen beach with his dog. However, with Wilson saying they only get about three weeks of sunshine per year, those beach walks are likely few and far between anyway.
The weather was the biggest adjustment for Morrison, and getting back into school was a close second.
“We’d been out of school for a while,” he said. “Coming back into it was hard keeping up with the school work again and your soccer. You don’t have a lot of free time. That was the toughest bit for me.”
For Morrison, one of the biggest adjustments was realizing America was not the same as what he saw on television and in movies.
“The culture was hard for me my first year,” he said. “I thought America was what you see in the movies with this big party, and I found out real quick it wasn’t. ‘Blue Mountain State’ on Netflix, I watched that and thought, ‘This is going to be incredible.’”
Whatever culture shock they experienced, Morrison and Wilson had no problems adjusting on the pitch. Their time together at St. Mary’s included winning a Lone Star Conference championship with the Rattlers in their junior season in 2019. Morrison was named the Lone Star Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2020 along with earning first-team all-conference honors, and Wilson was named to the All-Tournament team while earning a third-team all-conference selection.
“The coaching staff and myself had seen them play countless times in the Lone Star Conference for St. Mary’s, and we had a strong recommendation from their coach,” Heat head coach John Powell said. “He speaks extremely highly of them as players and as young men off the pitch. They live and breathe football. They want to be pros. They do the little things that a lot of other players don’t. They are very good players overall, but it was the whole package that attracted us to them.”
Part of that complete package is a relentless passion for the game. Long after practice has ended and many players have headed home to rest before lifting weights in the afternoon, Morrison and Wilson can be found clinging to the field and honing their skills in a game called soccer tennis. Much like a toddler routinely asking for another five minutes before bedtime, they are always asking to play one more game several times over until the coaches finally have to show some tough love and say it’s time to go.
“It is fantastic,” Powell said. “They can’t get enough football. We have the sessions planned to the minute, and Lou is always the first one at the end saying, ‘More coach. Another round,’ and you’re having to tell them no because you’re trying to take care of their body. They love it so much.”
The post-practice action also serves as a friendly rivalry as Morrison and Wilson typically go up against English teammates in what they hope is a preview of things to come when Scotland and England meet this month in the UEFA EURO group stage.
“Always beating the English boys is what’s needed,” Wilson said. “Scotland plays England on June 18, so if we can win out at head tennis every day against England then it’s perfect.”
Morrison agreed simply stating, “100% for Scotland forever.”
Their years of bonding have paid off on the pitch as Morrison and Wilson always know where to find each other without having to say a word.
“They have played together for so long,” Powell said. “They have an understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They also have this kind of sixth sense of where the other is going to be. You’ve already seen it in the first three matches. Lou has played every minute and Liam has been right up there as well. They have been great for us.”
“It is good,” Morrison said. “We know where each other are going to be most of the time because we have played with each other for so long. When he picks the ball up, I know where it’s going to be, and I know he’s always got my back if things go wrong.”
Their camaraderie has helped the Heat rank second in the Lone Star Conference early in the season with 1.33 goals allowed per game. They are behind only the Midland-Odessa Sockers FC which has allowed three goals in three games. Of the four goals allowed by Laredo (1-1-1, 4 points), all but one of them have come on penalty kicks including the game winner in Friday’s 2-1 loss to Irving FC in the home opener. They are aiming to avoid penalties this week as they host the unbeaten Denton Diablos FC.
“Obviously it’s not what we’ve wanted, a win, a draw and a loss,” Wilson said. “We’ve experienced it all. We want to go out and devastate the best team so far in the conference, especially when we are going against players from our college team and other teams. We need to start winning because it’s depressing. The first home game we do that for the fans, it’s awful. We’re giving away stupid things with three penalties.”
“Defensively with the exception of the equalizer last Friday, the other three goals have come from the spot,” Powell said. “That means we’re defending well. We’re still giving up some chances, but we are minimizing those. It comes down to the guys we have in the back line and the midfield.”
The Heat will be put to the test on defense this week as they welcome Denton (3-0-0, 9 points), the No. 4 team in the National Premier Soccer League power rankings. The Diablos are leading the NPSL with an average of 4.7 goals per game after routing the Fort Worth Vaqueros FC 7-2 last week.
“We’ll take it a game at a time,” Morrison said. “The next game is always the most important. If we win the next one then we’re on the up again and all the momentum swings our way.”
If the Heat can take care of business Thursday, they will pull within two points of the Diablos for first place as they get within one game of the midway point of the season.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Wilson said. “Obviously we have the talent at every position. We just need to show it now. Maybe the occasion took its toll on us. We didn’t play up to the crowd. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.”
Photo Credit: Jason Mack/Laredo Heat SC