Laredo Heat SC Completes Sweep of North Texas Trip
Sweeping a North Texas road trip strengthened the Laredo Heat SC’s position at the top of the table in the Lone Star Conference as it followed up Thursday’s win over Denton by taking care of business again Saturday with a 1-0 victory over the Fort Worth Vaqueros FC.
“The boys showed a lot of grit and determination to make sure we brought home the maximum points,” Heat head coach John Powell said. “There were lots of tired bodies. Guys really emptied the tank for us tonight. I’m really proud of them.”
With two wins in the past three days, the Heat (7-1-1, 22 points) have a clear path to securing the No. 1 seed in the conference heading into the final three games of the regular season. With the Corinthians FC of San Antonio (7-1-2, 23 points) coming to Laredo for the final match of the regular season, the Heat only need to win that and one of their other two matches to guarantee the top seed regardless of other results. The Denton Diablos FC (5-2-1, 16 points) is the only team that could match those 28 points, and Laredo would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Despite their prime positioning, the Heat still have not officially secured a playoff berth heading into the final quarter of the regular season. All Laredo needs to make it official is one more win or for Irving FC (4-1-5, 17 points) to lose or draw in either of its final two matches.
“We have one foot in the door,” Powell said. “Now we need to finish our first goal which is getting to the postseason, and a win will do that on Wednesday night.”
Laredo entered the week tied with Denton for second place, but Thursday’s 3-1 victory over the Diablos combined with a loss Wednesday from San Antonio pushed the Heat up to first place. Tied 1-1 at halftime, Laredo took control in the second half. Jordan Mase had a brace with his first two goals of the season, Masaya Sekiguchi had a goal and an assist, and Erwin Regules picked up an assist in his season debut.
The matchup came down to the second half again Saturday after the Heat generated consistent chances throughout the first half but went into the break in a scoreless draw. Regules played a part in the game-winning goal for the second straight match as his outlet pass sprung Ruben Nielsen who passed over to Kristian Colaci. It was the team-leading sixth goal of the season for Colaci, and Nielsen picked up his fourth assist.
“Playing Thursday night in such a high-intensity match, there is always a little bit of a drop you are concerned about as a coach,” Powell said. “I don’t think there was a drop in our intensity. I think we could have buried the game in the first half, but we didn’t. The resolve and resiliency from there was great. Ruben and Colaci connected to finish a goal for us, and that was all we needed. The back line was solid today, so we just needed the one.”
One goal proved to be enough thanks to the Heat and goalkeeper Connor Durant posting their fifth clean sheet in nine games. Laredo leads a trio of teams in the conference allowing less than a goal per game with only six conceded in nine matches.
“From back to front and starters to subs, they were dialed in and trusted each other,” Powell said. “We bent a little bit but didn’t break. Clean sheets are going to win you games and clean sheets are going to make sure you are in the playoffs. That’s always our goal every match is to get a clean sheet. I’m really proud of them for adding the fifth one of the year, and we’re obviously going to go for a sixth on Wednesday night.”
After missing Thursday’s matchup, Colaci subbed in to open the second half Saturday. He made a quick impact as his free kick in the opening minutes was deflected for a corner, and a minute later he put a shot on net. Fort Worth (2-7-1, 7 points) had one of its best chances in the 65th minute with a 4-on-3, but Durant was able to gain control and clear the ball out.
Laredo broke through in the 70th minute. Colaci was moving up the right sideline and passed across to Regules near midfield before continuing to move forward. Regules turned and quickly fired a pass 30 yards down the field to Nielsen. The keeper came 30 yards out of the net as he attempted to beat Nielsen to the ball, but Nielsen got around him and immediately passed across to Colaci. With a defender racing in to fill the empty net, Colaci sent a hard shot past him and into the high left corner.
“Erwin had a great influence on the game again,” Powell said. “He showed great vision on that play. Ruben was unselfish, and Colaci did what he does and finished his chance. He really only had the one chance today and he did it. He had to put in a really tough shift, but if you asked him, he’d be more than fine with all the running and chasing down he had to do just to get his one goal.”
The Heat will complete a stretch of three games in a week as they return home to host the CF10 Houston FC (2-5-2, 8 points) at 8:00 pm Wednesday at the TAMIU Soccer Complex. Laredo won 4-0 in Katy during the first meeting this season after Houston received two red cards in the first half. Tickets are $5 for general admission and $20 for VIP. 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.
Photos Courtesy of Laredo Heat SC