This weekend’s matchup between Fort Worth Vaqueros FC and Midland-Odessa Sockers FC is one of the premier games of the 2018 NPSL season. It pits two incredible organizations against each other in a game that could define the race for the Lone Star Conference title.
“We expect an intense, competitive match between two of the top teams not only in the Lone Star Conference but the NPSL as a whole,” Vaqueros general manager Tobias Xavier Lopez said. “It’s early but it will be a great test to see where the Vaqueros are at this point in the year.”
Sockers FC General Manager, Soccer Operations Jeff VonHolle agreed.
“Honestly, the game this Saturday night in Fort Worth is undoubtedly one of our biggest games of this NPSL season. If we can get out of there with three points, we’ll have six road points in two games played in two places that I think will prove to be difficult to win games this year. We’ve got a lot of respect for the job that the guys in Fort Worth do, and it’s a fun place to go to play.”
It’s easy to see why expectations are high for this game and the season ahead.
“We expect to be in the Lone Star Conference playoffs,” Lopez said. “We took a great step last year in coach Nick Stavrou’s first season by winning the regular season title but we hope to improve upon that and compete in the national playoffs. We hope to represent the Vaqueros colors with honor and show the nation that Fort Worth is indeed a soccer town.”
Both sides have had an impressive start to the season, competing in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and excelling in league play.
“We are off to a 2-0 start in league play so we can’t ask for better results but we can ask for a little sharper performance throughout the squad,” Lopez said. “We were obviously disappointed in the result in our first appearance in the U.S. Open Cup by allowing the stoppage time goal to Rayados. However, we are honored to have been a part of the most prestigious tournament in U.S. Soccer.”
VonHolle also praised his team’s strong start.
“We were very fortunate to get the opportunity to play in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup this season, and it was not only a chance to get two extra games under our belt, but it was also a great experience. We played really well against the Lakeland Tropics in Round 1, a 3-0 win, against a quality PDL team. In our loss to the USL’s San Antonio FC this past Wednesday night, we felt like we did a lot of things really well, even though the score line may not reflect our play on the pitch that night. SAFC is a really good team, and we were right with them for over 85 minutes before the wheels fell off a little bit. In our lone NPSL match so far, we were able to get out of Brownsville with three points on a night where we really didn’t play very well.”
The home team features a solid foundation of returning players to go along with a talented group of newcomers.
Mike Jones, a center back who spent time with MLS sides New York Red Bulls and Sporting KC, has established himself as the organizer of the Vaqueros defense. He was named captain this offseason and brings composure, strength, and athleticism to the Fort Worth defense.
Defender Joseph Cervantes, who has earned the nickname of”Mr. Vaqueros,” has been with the club for all five seasons. He has one goal in NPSL play this season and brings incredible pace and work ethic to the club. He also represents the club constantly in the community.
Forward Kalle Sone, a Cameroon native, has exploded onto the scene for the Vaqueros this year. Sone scored at least one goal in all four preseason matches. He scored in both Vaqueros games so far with a first half hat-trick last week against Tyler FC, giving him a total of four goals in league play. He’s already collected a pair of honors, being named to both the Top Drawer Soccer NPSL Team of the Week and the Football Manager Team of the Week.
The visitors are a team full of newcomers that have come together quickly. No one returns from the squad that nearly won a national title last year, but there should be no cause for concern as this team is absolutely loaded with talent at every position.
Midfielders Xavi Lao and Peter Dominguez already have found themselves as regulars on the scoresheet. Lao scored in a 1-0 win over Brownsville and a 3-0 Open Cup win over Lakeland. Dominguez scored a memorable goal, an absolute laser from 25 yards out, in the Lakeland win.
Forward Maxi Galizzi, midfielder/forward Nathan Regis, and defender Chris Pitharas are all players that are expected to make significant contributions to the team and a breakthrough could happen at any moment.
It certainly could be a tactical battle this weekend with two talented coaching staffs being part of the match.
Stavrou returns for his second year with the Vaqueros after leading the club to the Lone Star Conference regular season title in 2017. Stavrou is revered in the Dallas-Fort Worth community after a decorated playing career that included time with the Dallas Sidekicks, DFW Toros, and Dallas Rockets. His coaching career is just as exceptional with experience at the Dallas Texans Soccer Club, Dallas Sidekicks, Solar Soccer Club, and Texas Woman’s University.
Luis Rincon is in his first season as Midland-Odessa’s head coach. Rincon is the current head coach of both men’s and women’s soccer at Ohio Valley University in West Virginia, where he is credited with turning struggling programs into regional powerhouses.
Taking everything into account, this is a match that no soccer fan would want to miss. Tickets, which are priced at $10 and free for Fort Worth ISD students employees, are available for purchase online. A live stream will also be available.
Photo Credit: Hannah Reinmiller and Mark Nicholas/Midland-Odessa Sockers FC