Wednesday's matchup between TAMIU and St. Mary's will feature a combined nine Laredo Heat SC players as the teams open Lone Star Conference play at the TAMIU Soccer Complex.
It will be a Lone Star Conference showdown in more ways than one as Laredo Heat SC members line up on both sides Wednesday when the TAMIU soccer team hosts St. Mary’s at 7 p.m. at the TAMIU Soccer Complex.
The teams have a combined nine players from the Heat's National Premier Soccer League team with five on TAMIU and four on St. Mary’s. It will be a unique situation for the four Rattlers playing an away matchup on their NPSL home field where the Heat went 5-1-0 this summer. Laredo outscored opponents 13-0 over its last four home matches including a 3-0 victory over the Midland-Odessa Sockers FC in the Lone Star Conference semifinals.
“It’s always exciting having an opportunity to see our Heat players in action with their college teams,” Laredo Heat SC President Shashi Vaswani said. “Having a reunion on both sides of a matchup in Laredo makes it that much more fun. We know all of them will give their all, and it should be a great game.”
The Dustdevils feature forwards Gabriel Gacovicaj and Johan Portales, midfielder Tatsuma Yuki, defender Kodai Kobayashi and goalkeeper Dylan Rivas from the Heat. TAMIU also has defender Jose Rivera who played for the Heat's UPSL team.
Gacovicaj scored Saturday in a 4-3 loss as the Dustdevils traveled for a non-conference match against fellow Lone Star Conference team UT Tyler. He has two starts in five appearances and has two goals as he also scored the game winner in a 1-0 victory at Fort Hays State on Sept. 16. Gacovicaj is tied for second on the team with seven shots and has three on goal.
Portales ranks second on the team with 11 shots and has four on goal. He has recorded a goal and an assist while making five starts in six appearances. His goal was the game winner in a 3-2 victory over South Dakota Mines on Sept. 9.
Yuki has appeared in all seven games with six starts. He is tied for third on the team with seven shots including three on goal, and he has one assist.
Kobayashi has made five starts in seven appearances. He has put both his shot attempts on net.
Rivera ranks sixth on the team with 476 minutes played as he has made four starts and appeared in all seven games.
TAMIU is looking to improve on a 2-4-1 start to the season in non-conference play. The early portion of the season has been loaded with close contests as only one game has been decided by more than a goal. The Dustdevils have been edged 15-12 in goals, but they hold advantages of 101-79 in shots and 44-37 in shots on goal.
Heat defenders Liam Morrison and Lewis Wilson have been mainstays at St. Mary’s, and they are joined in their final season by Heat captain and midfielder Erwin Regules and goalkeeper Roberto Ortiz.
Morrison and Wilson have been key to the Rattlers holding opponents to 1.3 goals per game and posting clean sheets in two of their four victories. They have nearly doubled up opponents with a 111-62 advantage in shots including a 42-28 edge in shots on goal.
Both have appeared in five games with four starts for Morrison and five for Wilson. Morrison – the Lone Star Conference Preseason Defensive Player of the Year – has two assists and three shots, and Wilson put his lone shot on goal.
Regules has been efficient in making an immediate impact at St. Mary’s. He leads the team with three goals off just seven shots including four on net. Two of his goals are game winners, and he has started in each of his four appearances.
The Rattlers are also coming off a close loss as they fell to 4-3 overall with a 2-1 defeat in overtime at home against Dallas Baptist. The other two losses were against teams ranked in the top 10 as St. Mary’s lost 3-2 against No. 8 Colorado School of Mines and 1-0 against No. 5 Palm Beach Atlantic. The matchup helped Palm Beach Atlantic climb to No. 3 in the latest poll.
The nine combined Heat alumni helped Laredo advance to the Lone Star Conference championship game this summer. The Heat finished the regular season 7-1-2 with the No. 1 defense and No. 2 offense in the Lone Star Conference as they allowed only 10 goals while scoring 27. Laredo posted five clean sheets including four in a span five games heading into the championship match.
Liam Morrison and Lewis Wilson