The Laredo Heat SC signed five Laredo athletes for the 2022 NPSL season including three who spent time with the club last year.
Jorge "Koke" Mares, Hector Arreola, Jose Rivera, Sebastian Rivera and Andres Herrera
The Laredo Heat SC is boosting its mission of showcasing homegrown talent with the signing of five Laredoans for the upcoming 2022 National Premier Soccer League season. Hector Arreola, Jorge “Koke” Mares and Jose Rivera return to the roster while Andres Herrera and Sebastian Rivera make their debut.
“It’s an honor to have so many talented Laredo players on the team, and we would love to see the numbers continue to grow,” Laredo Heat SC President Shashi Vaswani said. “Koke, Hector and Jose were great representatives of the Heat last year, and Andres and Sebastian will be great additions. We are excited to get this summer season started and see what they can do.”
Mares has the most experience among the group as he spent the entire 2021 season with the NPSL squad as the Heat finished 8-2-2 and made a run to the Lone Star Conference championship game. The United High School senior defender was the youngest player on the squad and made his debut at home on July 9. He subbed in during the 86th minute and helped close out a 5-0 victory over the Temple Coyotes FC.
“I’m grateful and blessed to have the opportunity to play with the NPSL team,” Mares said. “I’m honored I was one of the first ones from the academy to go up and experience it. I have to make the best of it. Last season was great. It was tough. I worked hard every day trying to earn my playing time. It motivated me every day to work harder.”
After showing what Laredo Heat youth academy players are capable of, Mares is excited to see his former teammates do the same as the other four local signees also spent time training with the academy.
“It’s great. I feel good having some of my former teammates with me now,” he said. “It will be great to work with them again. I’m happy for them and I want them to succeed.”
An LBJ high school graduate and Texas A&M International University defender, Arreola joined Mares on the NPSL roster midway through last season as he was promoted from the Heat’s United Premier Soccer League team. Arreola played 775 minutes for the Dustdevils last season with seven starts in 11 appearances, and he is excited to continue playing at the TAMIU Soccer Complex throughout the summer.
“It feels good to be back and playing at that level,” Arreola said. “It’s good because you learn a lot from different players that come from everywhere. Some of them are already signing pro. You learn their style of play and you adapt.”
Jose Rivera is also returning on the back line after joining the NPSL roster late last season. He is excited for the opportunity to be with the NPSL team from the start this time around.
“I’m really happy to be back with the Heat,” he said. “It’s a big change, because last year I started with the UPSL and earned a spot with the NPSL. It’s a good opportunity for me to be out with the boys and show them what I’m capable of from the beginning.”
Rivera spent most of the season on the UPSL team but was with the NPSL squad in the postseason and earned five minutes of playing time in the Lone Star Championship game.
“It was a good experience. It was the championship game, so there was a lot of adrenaline,” Rivera said. “You can’t describe the feeling of playing in a final. It was a good experience. Hopefully this year we can make it out with the championship and go all the way.”
After playing his freshman year at Alexander High School, Rivera headed north to join the FC Dallas Academy. He was Arreola’s teammate with TAMIU last season, but he’ll be teaming up with his brother Sebastian Rivera in the fall at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio which also features fellow Heat defender Liam Morrison.
Before teaming up with the Rattlers, the brothers are eager to reunite on the pitch this summer with the Heat. They previously played together in their youth along with one year at FC Dallas and additional games with the Heat’s UPSL team.
“It’s going to be a great experience playing with my brother in the summer,” Jose Rivera said. “Having it in Laredo makes it even more special.”
“I’m really excited to play alongside my brother,” Sebastian Rivera said. “We are going to make an impact on the team. I look forward to it. I’m really happy.”
Playing alongside fellow Heat defenders Morrison and Lewis Wilson, Sebastian Rivera played 1,159 minutes with 14 starts and 18 appearances last season for St. Mary’s while recording three assists.
“Joining the Heat this summer will be really exciting,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it. This will be my first season with the NPSL team.”
The other newcomer this year is midfielder Andres Herrera who has been with the Laredo Heat youth academy since he was 9 years old. A former second-team All-State honoree at St. Augustine High School, Herrera played 673 minutes for TAMIU last season with nine starts in 14 appearances.
“It’s a privilege. I remember being in the academy and watching the first-team players, and I just wanted to be one of them some day,” Herrera said. “Now I have that opportunity, and it’s something I wanted to accomplish. I’m excited to put the jersey on and start the season.”
Herrera feels comfortable making the jump to the NPSL thanks in part to his familiarity with several players as he joins his former youth academy teammates including several fellow Dustdevils.
“There are some familiar faces, and it’s going to create a great environment,” Herrera said. “Most of them played with me in the academy when we were kids. We all had that same goal when we were kids, and now being part of it is just unreal.”
The Heat open the season Friday, May 13 on the road against the Corinthians FC of San Antonio. They play their home opener Wednesday, May 18 against FC Brownsville followed by home matches Saturday, May 21 and Tuesday, May 24.
The Heat play their home matches at the TAMIU Soccer Complex. Tickets are $5 for general admission and $20 for VIP access, and children 12 and under get in free.
Visit laredoheatsc.com and follow @laredoheatsc on social media to stay up to date on the latest news. Any youth players interested in joining the academy can visit laredoheatscyouth.com for more information.
Jorge "Koke" Mares as a youth player with the Heat
Andres Herrera as a youth player with the Heat
Jorge "Koke" Mares
Andres Herrera as a youth player with the Heat