Heat host rival Midland in playoff opener


The Laredo Heat SC put a near-regular-season dominance in the rearview mirror as their attention shifts entirely to the Lone Star Conference semi-finals with the club hosting Midland-Odessa Sockers FC at 8 p.m. Wednesday at the soccer complex TAMIU.

“The regular season ended well, but for any team, once you’re in the playoffs, it doesn’t matter what you’ve done before,” Laredo Heat SC midfielder and captain said. Regulators. “We’ve shown each other what we can do, so the playoffs put us in a position to shine.”

The Heat (7-1-2) closed the regular season with five straight wins and finished on a high note with their biggest margin of victory and a scoring record with a 5-0 win over Temple Coyotes FC. It was the third clean sheet in the last four games and the fourth overall, and it extended Laredo’s unbeaten streak to seven games with a 6-0-1 streak.

During the unbeaten streak, the Heat did not face a single deficit. Not counting extra time, they were tied for 247 minutes and led the other 383 minutes in the last seven matches.

Coincidentally, the only flaw in that streak was a 1-1 draw at Midland (5-2-3) on June 17. Laredo led for 42 minutes in the game and was tied for the other 48.

“There is a bad taste of this tie about them,” Regules said. “We really want things to be different this time around, especially at home.”

The Heat generated scoring chances throughout the first half of the draw starting in the ninth minute when pressure from midfielder David Martinez created an interception from forward Nadav Datner at the top of the box. Datner’s shot went just right, but it caught up four minutes later. Datner put pressure on the keeper and deflected his attempted pass towards forward Gabriel Gacovicaj who shot 15 yards into the lower right corner of the net for a 1-0 lead in the 13th minute.

Several more half-time scoring opportunities were denied as Laredo took a 1-0 lead at the break. Midland scored the equalizer early in the second half from a corner kick in the 54th minute. Heat goaltender Ross Dalton tried to catch a cross from Cian Foley, but Kenan Ersoy beat him with a header to tie the score. Goalkeepers on both sides made key saves the rest of the way as the teams settled for a point each.

“We feel like it was a two-part story. In the first half we were really dominant, ”said Laredo Heat SC head coach John Powell. “We had a handful of chances and we were only able to convert one. I think the game would have been different if a second or third had come in. To thank them, that’s what good teams do. They had a good little spell in the second half, especially after their goal, where we were on the back foot. This is a very good opportunity to show a full performance compared to about 65 minutes.

The draw with the Heat was part of a close game pattern for the Sockers. They rolled 5-0 on July 2 against Fort Worth, but they have scored two goals or less in their other nine games. After a 3-0-1 start to the season, they finished only 2-2-2, including a pair of 2-0 losses to Irving FC and Denton Diablos FC in the last three games. Midland finished just behind the Heat with 11 goals allowed and three clean sheets in the regular season.

“They are a strong team with a lot of good players,” said Regules. “There will certainly be great intensity in the game.”

While the focus is entirely on fighting to advance into the playoffs, Wednesday’s game will also serve as a sort of rubber match between the rivals. The Heat swept the series in 2018 and Midland returned the favor in 2019. With a draw in their first meeting this year, Wednesday’s result will break the tie.

“I think Midland is a great team. They have a very good history as a club and they are a rival, ”said Powell. “We can’t wait to present what we have again. We know it will be a very difficult game. We only focus on ourselves. “

The Heat have plenty of bright spots to focus on, including the end of the regular season with the best defense in the Lone Star Conference and the tie for 10th in the National Premier Soccer League with a lone goal allowed average. per game. They also placed second in the division with 2.7 goals per game, which puts them close to 16th in the league.

Leading the attacking charge, Datner nearly dominated the competition with nine goals, including his third double of the year in the final. Datner was named to the NPSL’s June Team of the Month last week after scoring four goals and three assists in six games. He wasn’t the only player to be honored as defender Gabriel Claudio was named Football Manager of the Week after scoring the only goal and making several defensive plays in a 1-0 shutout at Katy 1895 FC .

Despite the accolades and the dominant race, Powell said the players remained focused on the task at hand and prepared well for Midland.

“The guys have been great this week,” said Powell. “We stuck with the same thing that has worked for the past few weeks. We worked them extremely hard and then we succeeded a bit the day before the game. Everyone is fit, healthy and feeling great, so we are in a good position. “

Tickets for the playoffs opening on Wednesday at 8 p.m. are $ 5 for general admission and $ 20 for VIP access, while children 12 and under enter free. Tickets are available now at laredoheatsc.com. Fans are encouraged to wear red and bring food and drink into the game as concessions are not available due to COVID-19 restrictions.

If the Heat win, they will play again on Saturday against the winner of Wednesday’s game between Denton (8-1-1) and Katy (4-4-2). Laredo would host Katy or travel to face Denton for the Lone Star Conference Championship.

“There is no doubt this game will be extremely difficult,” said Laredo Heat SC chairman Shashi Vaswani. “If we win, we will most likely travel to Denton for a showdown with the Denton Diablos for the conference championship. If we win this game, we’ll host a team from Nevada or Arizona for the regional final on July 24th. Again, the first thing is first, we have to win Wednesday! We’ll see each other there.”

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