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Heat take on Long Island in national semifinal

Heat take on Long Island in national semifinal

Friday August 5, 2011 - Heat take on Long Island in national semifinal

Trying to stay hot

By Adam Geigerman
Laredo Morning Times
Published: Friday, August 5, 2011 2:38 AM CDT
The Laredo Heat are far from home.

They are 2,270 miles away from home, to be exact, in Kitsap, Wash., about an hour outside of Seattle.

Tonight the Heat (11-3-2, 35 points) will be on familiar ground, though, as they play in the Premier Developmental League semifinals for the fourth time in the team’s seven-year history.

They enter as the Southern Conference Champions in the PDL Final Four and face off against the league’s Eastern Conference Champion Long Island (New York) Rough Riders.

“Believe me, I expect a very aggressive game,” Heat coach Israel Collazo said.

“I think both teams will be very aggressive and very physical in trying to assert themselves.

It will be about who can control the ball and the midfield; whoever does that will have the chances to score and eventually win.”

Heat defender Adam Weinzimer grew up around the Rough Riders in Dix Hills, N.Y., and played with the team last year.

Weinzimer allows his new team insight on his former fraternity, a rare commodity for two teams that haven’t seen each other yet this year.

“I know they are a young bunch,” Weinzimer said.

“They are quick and fit and always ready to attack.

I know every team in the Final Four is dangerous, but these guys will be very tough.

“But anyone can win once the whistle blows.”

Stout competition

The Heat, having edged their way into the semifinals with a slender 1-0 skimming of the Central Florida Kraze and a subsequent penalty kick shootout stunner over the Mississippi Brilla last week, now face the stoutest competition of 2011.

The Rough Riders rode through a top-heavy, nine-team Mid-Atlantic Division with a record of 12-1-3 (39 points).

The Long Island success can be dissected and attributed to the team’s lethal dosage of damaging forwards, Keith Detelj and Dominick Sarle, and their pair of stalwart keepers, Thomas Booth and Alexander Naples.

The Rough Riders’ front line of Sarle (10 goals) and Detelj (12) have tallied 22 of the team’s 42 goals and touched an additional eight assists.

Sarle is a member of the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team and played in the 2009 Under-17 World Cup in Nigeria; although he never found the net, the team advanced to the round of 16.

“(Sarle) is one of my best friends,” Weinzimer said.

“I grew up playing with him and he’s a serious game-changer for them.

He had a hat trick in their first playoff game and scored in the second round.

“I would say he’s their best player, definitely someone we have to watch out for.”

Booth and Naples each have appeared in eight games this year, posting .750 and 1.00 goals allowed averages respectively.

Both have clean-sheeted teams more than twice this year, allowing 16 total balls by in 19 games, including the playoffs.

As a team, Long Island’s players with more than 10 appearances this season have totaled for 38 goals, 25 assists and an astounding 186 shots on goal.

The Rough Riders’ combined team offense is something to take very seriously for the full 90 minutes and any extra.

Adversity enters

Aside from the on-field competition that Long Island boasts, the Heat will be forced to deal with a powerful threesome of absentees.

Midfielder Gregory Mulamba and coach Collazo will be sidelined after acquiring separate single-game suspensions after the Brilla game last week.

“The team knows their jobs,” Collazo said.

“They know I am there for them, even though not on the sideline for this one match.

Everyone will be fine, and hopefully they can advance us into the championship match so I can come back on the sideline.

“I will talk to the team before the game, and (assistant coach) Fernando (Hernandez) will be in charge during the game (tonight).”

Lightning-footed forward Felix Garcia will also be unavailable due to flu-like symptoms that had him hospitalized and requiring IV fluids on Tuesday.

His game-changing scoring ability will be missed, as he scored a quick strike in the 11th minute against the Brilla, a goal that stood as the game’s only goal until the Brillas’ buzzer-beating equalizer.

“These missing pieces will be tough to deal with,” Heat forward Esteban Bayona said.

“We’ve been able to compete fine before without some of our players too, on the other hand.

We just have to keep our heads down and do the job we’ve come to do, which is to bring another championship to Laredo.

“It hurts to not have all our team, but it doesn’t kill us. Composure is key.”

The Heat have one of the PDL’s top-3 scorers in Bayona and speedfreak midfielder Max Gunderson to complement a fortified backline anchored by All-Southern Conference selection Carlos Ordaz and Adan Villavicencio.

The Heat’s deep playoff run has been propelled by an ensemble cast of netseekers, including midfielders Armando Begines and Juan de Dios Ibarra.

All together, the Heat have struck 28 goals with 15 assists and 132 shots on goal (minus Garcia’s seven season tallies, four assists and 22 shots).

The winner of tonight’s Heat-Rough Riders match will face the winner of the other semifinal between the Kitsap Pumas (12-1-3, 35 points) and the Thunder Bay Chill (12-2-2, 38 points) on Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. airing on the Fox Soccer Channel.

“I mean, these are guys I grew up with that we are facing,” Weinzimer said.

“It will be a little bittersweet, but cool at the same time.

We all still talk, and who would have ever thought that our team will face theirs.

“It will be weird, but exciting.”