By Laredo Heat SC
Coming up empty on close calls late cost the Laredo Heat SC the full three points it was aiming for as the team rallied in the second half to draw 1-1 in its season opener on the road against Corinthians FC of San Antonio.
“The standard and expectation is always three points,” Laredo Heat SC head coach John Powell said. “When you go on the road, you need to take something. We went 1-0 down and fought back to take over the second half and completely dominate in possession and clear-cut chances. It still feels like a loss, but it’s a point on the road and we’ll only go up from here.”
Heat captain and center back Lewis Wilson scored the equalizer with a header off a free kick early in the second half. Returning for a second season in Laredo, it was the first National Premier Soccer League goal for the Aberdeen, Scotland native. Wilson’s goal came immediately after a San Antonio player was getting in his face before the free kick.
“That’s the stuff that gets me going in a game,” Wilson said. “Keep talking all that smack and I’m ready. It was a great feeling. I said before the game I was going to score. Coming from 1-0 down, I needed to do it for the Vaswanis.”
The new speed on this year’s roster was on full display throughout the game as the Heat created several odd-man rushes. However, the team didn’t convert those chances despite several close calls.
“If you look at it realistically, we had two or three clear-cut chances in the first half,” Powell said. “If we finish those, it changes the complexion of the game. They weren’t taken, then we leveled and had two or three clear chances to take the lead and take the points and we didn’t. You can attribute it to a lot of things. They are clearly good players we have. There is fatigue, not knowing each other, and just missed chances. Those guys will score those goals going forward, no doubt.”
The Heat had one of the biggest scoring chances early as Jordan Mase broke past two defenders, but the keeper was aggressive in cutting off his wide angle and deflecting the shot. After Heat keeper Connor Durant made a point-blank save in the 18th minute, Laredo nearly got on the board in the 21st as Mase crossed left in the box to Kristian Colaci, but his one-timed shot went high.
A shot for the Heat got to the goal line but not across it in the 26th minute. Roberto Ordonez put a free kick from 20 yards out on target at the bottom-left corner of the net and the keeper deflected the shot. Wilson was ready and waiting and put the rebound on net, but a defender was in position and headed it away just before it crossed the goal line.
San Antonio (1-0-1, 4 points) broke the scoreless draw in the 33rd minute after getting a long deflection off a header. A clearing attempt up the middle was headed from 40 yards out by a midfielder. A forward was waiting behind the defense, gathered the ball, and shot into the left side.
Colaci got behind the defense and around the keeper on a deep feed five minutes later, but the keeper slowed him down just enough for the defender to catch up before he could get a shot off. The Heat had one more chance in the 44th minute when a shot from the middle of the box was deflected to the right. Mase charged in and put a quick left-footed shot right at the lower-right corner, but the keeper made a diving save. A free kick for San Antonio in added time went off the crossbar to keep the score 1-0 at halftime.
The Heat nearly found the equalizer in the opening 30 seconds of the half as Colaci passed up the right side to Jordan. He took a shot from 22 yards out, and the keeper narrowly deflected it over the crossbar.
Laredo broke through for the equalizer in the 57th minute off a free kick from 55 yards out. Dimitrios Leonoglou placed the free kick into the box, and Wilson sent a high header from 14 yards out into the left side to even the score.
“When we talk set pieces, we talk about servicing the ball and a proper run,” Powell said. “Lewis is a fantastic player and it’s just a class finish from a leader.”
The biggest chance the rest of the way for the Corinthians came in the 74th minute off a free kick as Durant made a diving save on the lower left side. The Heat controlled the majority of the match the rest of the way. Mase had a header go wide in the 86th minute and hit a shot off the post in the 88th minute. Laredo had two more shots on net in added time, but the keeper handled both to preserve the draw.
“Being together for four days and showing we can make a comeback is promising, but we need to get it together,” Wilson said. “We need to get the boys together and get some team bonding. If that was the team last year with the boys we had, that would have been three points because we were a family. We’ve got the boys to do it.”
Laredo will have a quick shot at redemption as it returns to action Wednesday hosting FC Brownsville at 8:00 pm at the TAMIU Soccer Complex for the home opener.
“I love that we get another chance so quick,” Powell said. “It’s another opportunity, and we’ll treat it just like we did this one. We’ll prepare to the best of our ability and put our best 11 out there. You could see today when our subs come in the level changes as well. We’re very deep.”
Wednesday’s home opener will be the first of a stretch of three games in seven days. The Heat also host matches on Saturday, May 21 and Tuesday, May 24. Tickets are $5 for general admission and $20 for VIP access, and children 12 and under get in free.
Please visit laredoheatsc.com and follow @laredoheatsc on social media to stay up-to-date on the latest news. Any youth players interested in joining the academy can visit laredoheatscyouth.com for more information. To see plans announced last week for construction of the Laredo Heat Soccer Complex, please visit team.laredoheatsc.com/soccercomplex.