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Heat suffer first ever NPSL regular-season loss

By By Garrett Kroeger, Laredo Morning Times, 05/25/19, 10:00PM CDT


For the first time during the Laredo Heat’s National Premier Soccer League tenure, the organization suffered a loss during the regular season.

The Heat lost to NPSL and Lone Star Conference newcomer the Denton Diablos 2-1 Friday at Texas A&M International’s Dustdevil Field. The loss comes a week after Laredo head coach Aidan Davison described the team’s performance as awful despite getting a 2-1 win over Tyler FC the league opener. However, the players felt Friday’s outing was an improvement from the season opener.

“It was a hard battle,” Heat goalkeeper Carlos Herrera said. “I think we did what coach asked us to do. We had high intensity. The first goal was really unlucky. Overall, I think it was a great improvement from the last game. Obviously, we aren’t happy with the result. But it is not where you start. It’s about where you finish. The team is going to be trending in the right direction.”

The Heat are now 11-1-0 in NPSL regular-season games dating back to last year. The loss also marked just the second time during Laredo’s NPSL tenure that the club has suffered defeat. The organization’s only other NPSL loss came in the South Region semifinal last year to the Little Rock Rangers 2-1, finishing three games shy of the national championship.

The first half was evenly matched as both teams traded early shot attempts. Denton’s first attempt came 45 seconds into the contest while Laredo’s came in the second minute. The Heat had a chance to take an early lead in the 14th minute off a free kick. However, their shot attempt bounced off the crossbar.

The Diablos (2-1-0) finally broke the scoreless tie in the 20th minute as Chase Drackett’s shot attempt rolled into the net after bouncing off several Laredo defenders.

“(The Diablos) got on a breakaway and they found the ball on the back side,” Herrera said. “Their forward took a bad touch and our defender tried to clear it. When he tried to clear it the ball went off their forward’s foot and went into the bottom corner. It’s just unlucky. Not much you can do on that.”

Although the Diablos dealt the first blow, the Heat (1-1-0) remained on the attack. Laredo had a chance for an equalizer as Denton’s goalkeeper was out of position. However, the Heat’s attempt sailed over of the goal.

Laredo had another chance to tie the game in the 31st minute. Yet its attempt bounced off the bottom of the crossbar and out of the goal. The Heat had a couple more chances to get an equalizer in the waning minutes of the half, but they couldn’t convert.

Denton wasted no time to extend its lead to begin the second half as Jalen James scored in the 51st minute to give the Diablos a 2-0 lead. Yet like the first half, Laredo didn’t quit.

Remaining on the offensive finally paid off for the Heat as Johan Portales converted on a volley attempt in the 53rd minute to cut the Diablos’ lead to one.

“I just saw it curve and go in,” Portales said. “I got excited.”

Laredo had several chances to tie the game over the last 30 minutes. But the Heat’s attempts either lacked power behind them making them easy to stop by Denton’s goalkeeper or they were off target.

The Heat did receive one card in the game as Sulieman Samura was given a yellow in the 86th minute. The organization will have a chance for revenge against the Diablos when it travels to Denton on June 15.

“I think there was a lot more energy from the team tonight,” Herrera said. “It was unlucky that we didn’t get the result we wanted because we had our chances. I think this is a good learning experience. I believe we are trending in a positive direction. I think it will get better as we go along.”

Laredo will have a week to recharge before hitting the road for the first time this season as it faces the Katy 1895 FC at 6 p.m. Friday at the Dutch Lions FC Soccer Facility. The Heat defeated Katy 6-0 last year.

Twitter: @gkroegs