The Laredo Heat felt they should have left the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex earlier this season when they first faced the Fort Worth Vaqueros. Instead, the Heat left with one point as they tied Vaqueros 1-1.
After getting their first win in over three weeks last Tuesday against Katy, the Heat once again drew with the Vaqueros 3-3 in the last home match of the regular season. And it was a missed opportunity for Laredo as it tries to stay in playoff contention.
“The intensity dropped,” Heat midfielder Jeremiah Egujie said. “We didn’t want it. We played well enough to get the three points.”
A win would have gone a long way for the Heat (4-4-2) as they are neck-and-neck with Dallas City FC for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Lone Star Conference — only the top four teams in each division make the postseason in the National Premier Soccer League. With the one point, Laredo now has to beat Midland-Odessa Thursday to have its season finale against Dallas City mean something. Dallas City will play Sunday against Tyler FC.
“This was definitely a missed opportunity for us,” Egujie said.
The first half was a back-and-forth affair as the two teams combined for five goals. Fort Worth (6-1-3) took the early lead as it scored in the 13th minute. But Laredo wasn’t worried. It kept to the game plan.
The Heat responded in the 21st minute Ivan Sakou buried an attempt off an assist from newcomer Julian Gaines. Then later in the 32nd minute, Sakou scored his seventh goal of the season off an assist from Egujie to give Laredo a 2-1 lead.
The Heat didn’t lead for long as the Vaqueros were awarded a penalty kick opportunity as Laredo was called for a foul in the box. Fort Worth converted the attempt in the 41st minute. But once again, the Heat didn’t quit.
In the two minutes of extra time, Roberto Carlos Avila scored his first goal with Laredo. Saturday’s contest was Avila’s Heat debut as he and Gaines were brought in by the team after spending time with the USL Championship League’s Austin Bold FC.
Laredo carried over its intensity into the second half. The Heat attacked from the get go and almost extend their lead in the 57th minute. However, Laredo’s header attempt bounced off the crossbar.
Both teams had plenty of chances to score early in the half, but neither could find the back of the net. Toward the end of the match, both squads played with 10 players as the Heat’s Emiliano Fama received two yellow cards while Fort Worth earned a straight red after injuring Avila on a slide tackle. Fort Worth tied the game in the 78th minute after both sides went down to 10 men.
“Maybe the intensity died because of the red card and going down to 10 men,” Egujie said. “Yet they went down to 10 men too. We should have had the advantage overall.”
Laredo almost regained the lead in the 83rd minute as Michael Cole had Fort Worth’s goalkeeper out of position. But his shot sailed high over the goal. Both teams had chances to earn the victory in the closing minutes. Yet neither could convert on their attempts.
The Heat aim to get back into the win column Thursday as they hit the road for a 7:30 p.m. matchup against Midland-Odessa (7-1-2). Earlier this year, Laredo fell to the Sockers 4-0 at home. Midland-Odessa was No. 18 in the NPSL’s latest power rankings according to the league’s website. The Heat will close the regular season Saturday against Dallas City.
“We have to bring the same intensity we brought in the first half this game and apply to the full 90 minutes in these last two games,” Egujie said. “As long as we work hard, we should be fine.”