Ordonez delivers equalizer on the road against Brownsville
By Jason Mack/Laredo Heat SC
The Lone Star Conference’s No. 1 seed will be determined Saturday in Laredo after the Laredo Heat SC rallied in the second half for a 1-1 draw on the road Wednesday against FC Brownsville to lock up at least a home match in the playoff opener.
“They left it all out there,” Heat head coach John Powell said. “All you can ask as a coaching staff is for the boys you coach to give you everything. They have done it all summer, and they did it again today. It was a very tough match on the road. I can’t give them enough credit for what they just did.”
With the draw, the Heat (8-1-2, 26 points) guaranteed they will at worst finish tied for first place and will earn one of the top two seeds. The top seed will be determined Saturday with Corinthians FC of San Antonio (7-2-2, 23 points) coming to town. Laredo can lock up first place with a win or a draw, while a loss would give San Antonio the title on tiebreakers.
“We had hundreds of people here supporting us,” Powell said. “We have the best fans in the whole NPSL, so to get them a home game and get the boys less travel is a massive accomplishment. We’ll check on their bodies like we always do the next day. They are tired and beat up. Then we’ll approach Saturday like we have every other game. It’s just one game at a time.”
Wednesday’s result also means the Heat remain the only team in the conference to secure a playoff berth. San Antonio, Brownsville (7-3-1, 22 points), Denton (7-3-1, 22 points), and Irving (5-1-5, 20 points) are locked in a tight race for the other three spots.
A back-and-forth match throughout, it came down to a pair of free kicks. Brownsville broke the scoreless draw in the 43rd minute with a free kick from deep on the left side sneaking into the left edge of the net. The Heat regrouped at the break and answered back early in the second half as Roberto Ordonez buried a shot from 20 yards out in the 54th minute.
“We knew it was going to be a tough match since the beginning,” Ordonez said. “I think we left the first half in the first half and went out in the second half with everything we had. It showed. We were able to get the equalizer.”
Growing up in nearby Pharr, Ordonez had several family members among the many Heat fans in attendance at the Brownsville Sports Park. On top of delivering the equalizer for Laredo, he was also excited to pick up his fourth goal of the season in front of his family.
“It always feels good to help the team out, especially when we’re down,” Ordonez said. “It also felt good because all my family was here. They enjoyed it. My mentality coming here was that I was going to score. That God I was able to execute.”
The Heat won 2-0 when the teams met in Laredo in the second game of the season, but Powell knew they would have a battle on their hands because the Explorers dominated possession throughout the second half in that match.
This time around was more balanced. Brownsville had the advantage early as Heat goalkeeper Connor Durant broke up big chances in the fourth and sixth minutes. Laredo got its attack going midway through the half as Ordonez put a free kick on target from 34 yards out in the 24th minute, and three minutes later Daisuke Takanaka had a shot saved.
“I think it was much more even as far as possession goes,” Powell said. “They had spells and we had spells. We could have been a bit more clinical in the final third and it would have made it a different match. To defend and work so hard and prevent them from having many clear-cut chances was a really good day from them.”
With Ordonez getting a good strike off the free kick in the first half, it was easy to call his number again when Laredo got another opportunity from just outside the center of the box in the second half. Ordonez backed up that confidence by putting his 20-yard shot through Brownsville’s wall and into the right side of the net.
“I’ve seen it all summer in training, and before the pregame talk I was thinking about why we don’t get to see it in the game,” Powell said. “So we made the call as a coaching staff to tell Ordonez he was taking the first one. The first one in the first half he put on frame, so he got the second one. I thought it was a great free kick. He put it on target and scored a great goal that we needed. That was a special one. I think when we watch it back, it will look really nice.”
Both teams kept up the pressure the rest of the way as both earned multiple corners and free kicks, but the 1-1 score held through the final whistle.
Now that the Heat locked up one home playoff match, the goal shifts to locking up first place and home-field advantage throughout the Lone Star Conference. Laredo hosts the Corinthians at 8:00 pm Saturday at the TAMIU Soccer Complex. The teams drew 1-1 in San Antonio in the opening game of the season on May 13.
Laredo is attempting to stay unbeaten with a sixth straight win on its home field, and San Antonio is looking to snap a two-game losing streak after falling 8-0 last Saturday in Brownsville.
“We have to take it game by game,” Ordonez said. “We’ll prepare for Saturday, and I know we can give them a tough battle. They are coming off a tough loss, and we have to take advantage of the opportunity.”
Tickets for Saturday’s decisive match 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