Disappointment, dismay, sorrow, you name it, the Laredo Heat probably felt it after last week’s 4-0 loss to the Lone Star Conference leader Midland-Odessa Sockers FC.
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.
“I was personally heartbroken,” Heat forward Ivan Sakou said. “I was upset with last week’s performance. I was upset about how the game went because we conceded three goals in a short amount of time. Everyone was upset and frustrated with our performance.”
With the loss, Laredo (3-2-0) fell all the way to fourth place in the Lone Star Conference South Division as it has nine points on the season. However, the Heat will have an opportunity to get back near the top of the standings with a two-match road trip this week as they play at 7:30 p.m. Thursday against the Fort Worth Vaqueros (4-0-0) and at 7 p.m. Saturday against Denton (5-2-0).
This will be the second two-match road trip Laredo has gone on. The first resulted in six points with victories over Katy 1895 FC and Tyler FC.
Denton and Fort Worth are two of the top-three teams in the conference. Fort Worth is in third place with 12 points while Denton is in second with 15. Midland-Odessa leads the division with 16 points.
While Denton and Fort Worth are among the best in the conference, they are also two of the best teams in the NPSL. Fort Worth is No. 3 in the latest NPSL power rankings while Denton is No. 22 according to the league’s website. The Heat came in at No. 34.
“It’s a big weekend, but we don’t really think about that,” Sakou said. “They are two good teams. We are a good team too. The guys understand that we should be the best team in our conference. We feel like we are. We just haven’t proved it at the moment. We aren’t worried about those games. We are going into the games confident that we will get the results we want.”
Last season, Laredo had Fort Worth’s number as it went 2-0 against the Vaqueros. The Heat defeated their conference 1-0 in last year’s regular-season finale and 3-1 in their playoff opener.
Fort Worth has looked dominant this season. The Vaqueros have outscored their opponents 12-4 for a goal differential of plus-8. Despite that, Laredo is as motivated as ever to get a victory Thursday.
“That loss last week hit us hard,” Heat defender Elias Peralas said. “It has impacted us in terms of us wanting to just win from now on, not only for getting three points, but for pride as well.”
Denton is a new team this year, but Laredo is already familiar with the Diablos as they handed the Heat their first ever NPSL regular-season loss. Laredo hung with Denton in their first matchup, but an unlucky goal by the Diablos put the Heat in a hole they just couldn’t climb out of.
Like Fort Worth, Denton has been dominant this season. The Diablos have outscored their opponents 22-11 for a goal differential of plus-11.
The Heat know they have a difficult road trip this week. Yet with the chance to get back into the conference title race with two wins and to rid the ghosts of last week’s loss, Laredo is as confident as ever. And it doesn’t want to taste defeat again.
“They are really strong teams,” Peralas said. “A lot of respect to them. But we are going to go at them and come at them hard.
“It was a harsh loss last week. We don’t want to go through that again, home or away. So, we are striving to be better and get the win for now on.”