The Laredo Heat had a big opportunity Thursday as they faced Lone Star Conference leader Midland-Odessa Sockers FC. Yet the Heat missed their chance to dethrone the Sockers as they fell 4-0.
The performance marked Laredo’s worst loss in its National Premier Soccer League tenure. The Heat’s previous worst was a 2-1 loss to Little Rock in last year’s NPSL South Region semifinals and earlier this season to the Denton Diablos. The defeat also marked Laredo’s second regular-season loss during its league tenure. The loss to Denton was the Heat’s first regular-season defeat.
A win would have put Laredo (3-2-0) on top of the conference standings. Now, the team could slide all the way to fourth place depending on how Denton and Fort Worth do this weekend. Entering Thursday’s game, the Heat were tied for second with Denton and Fort Worth at nine points apiece. Midland-Odessa (4-0-1) now has 13 points on the year.
Heat head coach Aidan Davison has made it known that he always expects energy from his team in the first 15 minutes and for them to move the ball forward with quality. Yet both of those aspects were missing from Laredo’s performance Thursday.
After the first five minutes, the Heat were on their heels for most of the contest. They were passing the ball backward instead of looking to push forward. When Laredo attempted to go on the attack, Midland-Odessa was quick to shut it down. And because of that, Davison had his head in his hands on several occasions throughout the match.
The opening 10 minutes were a back-and-forth battle. Yet after that, it was all Midland-Odessa.
The Sockers broke the scoreless tie in the 18th minute as Julio Vargas scored for the visitors. Vargas wasn’t done there as he scored his second goal of the night a minute later in the 19th minute. Trevor Amann scored the Sockers’ third goal in the 26th minute to give Midland-Odessa a 3-0 lead.
The Heat did have chances to score in the first half. Ivan Sakou had a defender beat in the 16th minute on a cross attempt with just the goalkeeper between him and the goal. Unfortunately for Laredo, he was called offsides.
At one point in the first half, Midland-Odessa had outshot Laredo 6-0. The Heat didn’t get their first clean shot at a goal until the 31st minute. Laredo had a chance in the 45th minute, but its attempt was blocked by the Sockers’ keeper.
The two teams traded early attempts to begin the second half. Midland-Odessa looked to extend its lead to four goals in the 47th minute. Fortunately for Laredo, goalkeeper Carlos Herrera was in position to defend the shot. Then in the 51st minute, Sakou had an opportunity to collect the Heat’s first goal of the night. But the Sockers’ keeper slid to stop the attempt.
Midland-Odessa collected its fourth goal of the night in the 53rd minute. After the score, Sockers head coach Johnny Clifford shouted, "goodnight" a few times.
Like the first half, Laredo was on the defensive for most of the second. Midland-Odessa was close to extending its lead to five goals in the 72nd minute, but its shot bounced off the top of the crossbar. Vargas almost had a hat trick for the Sockers in the 80th minute. However, Herrera made a diving save to block the shot.
Sakou had another quality attempt in the late minutes of the match for the Heat. Yet his attempt was deflected by a defender and went left of the goal.
Laredo has a week to regroup until it embarks on a crucial two-match road trip against Fort Worth and Denton. Two wins next week would place the Heat back in the Lone Star Conference title race.