The Laredo Heat SC capitalized on a pair of first-half red cards from CF10 Houston FC and took care of business on the road Saturday winning 4-0 in Katy to stay atop the table in the Lone Star Conference.
“We were playing well nice and early. Obviously the two getting sent off really helped,” Heat defender and captain Lewis Wilson said. “You still have to go out and win, and we did that. It took some time to get going, but once we got the first one the floodgates opened and we took care of business.”
Wilson was at the center of the turning point in the game as two red cards were issued to Houston (0-3-1, 1 point) in the 26th minute. The refs didn’t see when a Houston player kicked Wilson from behind, but they caught him moments later when he elbowed Wilson in the neck. As that player was being sent off, another earned a red card by swearing at and making contact with an official. The Heat (4-0-1, 13 points) kept their composure in the moment and throughout the rest of the game as they did not receive any cards on the night.
“Coach addressed at halftime that the refs would be looking at us, so we kept a cool head and were relaxed,” Wilson said. “I’m impressed with the boys, because it can go either way.”
It took some time to figure out Houston’s condensed defense, but the Heat broke through 15 minutes later. Roberto Ordonez crossed a corner kick into the box and Wilson headed it home for his third goal of the season and a 1-0 lead. It was also the third assist of the year for Ordonez. All three of Wilson’s goals have been the deciding goals as he scored the equalizer in a 1-1 draw with the SC Corinthians of San Antonio and opened the scoring in a 4-0 victory over the Temple Coyotes FC.
“It is a tough place to come and play,” Heat head coach John Powell said. “The pitch is very different from what we play on. It’s very narrow. It’s hard to find an attacking shape that suits our players, but they did well and kept going. Once the first goal went in, we knew more were coming.”
Kristian Colaci opened the scoring in the second half with his third goal in the past two games and his fourth of the season. In the 63rd minute, Ordonez raced toward the right side of the net and was forced over to the end line. He centered a pass to Gabriel Gacovicaj, and his shot was knocked away with a diving attempt from the keeper. Colaci was waiting on the left side and took the rebound out of the air with a right-footed kick for a 2-0 lead.
“It started well, then they had two men get sent off,” Heat midfielder Ruben Nielsen said. “It was kind of difficult to break down the defenders they had because they were very compact, but as soon as we got the first goal it was just straightforward from there.”
Nielsen entered the match with a team-high three assists but was still searching for his first goal. He had several close calls in the win over Temple, and he broke through Saturday just two minutes after Colaci’s goal.
After a give-and-go with Masaya Sekiguchi, Ordonez picked up his second assist of the night as he passed through the top of the box to Nielsen racing up the right side. Nielsen shot to the far post before a sliding defender could make the play.
“It was a relief. It was a good ball from Ordonez to see me,” Nielsen said. “It was nice to get the first goal and nice that my teammates are happy for me as well.”
“Ruben is a great player, and I know he has been frustrated because he hasn’t been on the score sheet as a goal scorer even though he has a few assists,” Powell said. “It was really good to see his hard work and effort rewarded with a goal.”
Sekiguchi rounded out the scoring as he picked up a goal for the second straight match in the 74th minute. Colaci dribbled up to the top left of the goal box and crossed to Sekiguchi on the right side. He cut left around a sliding defender and shot into the lower-right corner.
“We got four goals on the road and a clean sheet, and we had another dozen really good chances,” Powell said. “We’re creating plenty of chances, and today we had four big finishes to take the points.”
The four-goal match ends a stretch of the Heat increasing their scoring output every game this season, but it did increase their conference-best average to 3.2 goals per game. The Corinthians are close behind averaging 2.8 goals. Laredo continues to roll in the second half scoring 10 goals after the break in the past three matches.
Saturday marked the third clean sheet of the season for the Heat and goalkeeper Connor Durant as they also rank first in the conference allowing only 0.4 goals per game. The Denton Diablos FC ranks second at a goal per game. Laredo has especially cracked down on set pieces over the past three matches. It conceded only one corner kick in each of the previous two games, and it didn’t allow any Saturday as it held a 13-0 advantage.
“One of our points in pregame was to minimize their set pieces because they have proven to be dangerous on them,” Powell said. “That was a goal achieved for us. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing against the 11, 10 or 9, there are chances for them to put the ball in the box and things can happen. For us to stay mentally disciplined and get the clean sheet is something I’m very proud of.”
With the victory, the Heat remain tied for first in the Lone Star Conference with the Corinthians (4-0-1, 13 points) as San Antonio won 3-2 at home over Denton (2-1-1, 7 points) on Saturday. Laredo will look to pick up a fifth straight victory as it hits the road again Wednesday for a 6 p.m. rematch with the Austin United FC. The Heat won 5-1 over Austin at home earlier this week.
“We’ll get back early in the morning and assess where everyone is at,” Powell said. “We’ll rest some guys like we’ve been doing since we got here, and we’ll get ourselves in the best position to take care of Wednesday.”
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.