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Traveling to Austin

Traveling to Austin

Heat hope to continue success

By Matthew Goricki
Laredo Morning Times
Published: Friday, June 22, 2012 1:57 AM CDT
The Austin Aztex don’t have long to figure out how to finally score a goal against the Laredo Heat.

Only three days after Laredo shut out Austin for the second time this season, the Aztex will host the Heat today at 7:30 p.m. at House Park in Austin.

The Heat demonstrated exactly why they are so hard to score against in a 1-0 victory over the offensive powered Aztex on Tuesday.

The Aztex had to deal with much more than just getting the ball past Laredo goalkeeper Emmanuel Frias.

“The players in front of me have been playing good games,” Frias said.

“The defense has been strong the whole time we’ve kept a clean sheet (against Austin).”

In the first half of Tuesday’s game, the defense was so good that Frias was rarely challenged by the highest-scoring team in the Mid-South Division.

Frias made no saves in the first 45 minutes, but Austin still had one golden opportunity to score a goal.

Not long after Juan de Dios Ibarra scored the game’s lone goal, Frias was caught out of position with Austin’s Zack Pope in control of the ball inside the box.

Pope unleashed a shot only to have it bounce off Heat defender Max Gunderson, who was in the right place at the right time.

“Emmanuel comes up big for us, but we can’t just give him the credit,” Heat midfielder Greg Mulamba said.

“The defense has been great.

Emmanuel has been playing with so much confidence and he gives the defense confidence.

He energizes the rest of them.”

One key for the success of the Heat defense against Austin is Laredo’s ability to contain striker Kekuta Manneh, a 17-year-old dynamo from Gambia.

Manneh, who has scored six goals in seven games, was held in check throughout much of the first half, but found some success in the second half.

Frias and Mulamba both agree that Manneh’s best asset is his speed, which gives him the ability to quickly separate from defenders.

Heat coach Fernando Hernandez employed the ideal defense to counter Manneh’s attributes.

Every time Manneh touched the ball, he was immediately met by one or two Heat defenders, usually either Martin Moreno or Carlos Ordaz.

“Ordaz is experienced, so he probably knows where Manneh’s going to be before he gets moving,” Frias said.

“Ordaz has played against professional players, so it’s not something he hasn’t seen.

“Martin is fast. A lot of times, we kept those two on him.”

A perfect example of Frias’ assessment came late in the first half when Manneh took a leading pass and looked to be heading for a 1-on-1 chance with Frias.

Moments after Manneh touched the ball, Ordaz was there and managed to clear the ball out of bounds while behind Manneh.

Even though Manneh was facing a stingy defense, he was still able to get free early in the second half.

After getting by the Laredo defense, Manneh found himself 1-on-1 with Frias from the left side of the net.

From only about seven yards out, Manneh fired on Frias, who sprawled to make a save to keep Austin off the board.

“We did a better job in the first game than the last game,” Frias said of defending Manneh.

“He had a 1-on-1 and a couple of chances (on Tuesday).

The first game, we shut him down. He only had one chance.”

Manneh isn’t the only offensive threat for Austin, which also features attackers Jesus Cortes and Kristopher Tyrpak and midfielders Will Morse and James Martin.

Pope, a defenseman, even has the ability to create chances, as he demonstrated in Tuesday’s game.

But every Heat player knows Manneh is the engine of the Austin offense.

“Against a really fast player, we have to have someone on him as soon as he touches the ball,” Mulamba said.

“We didn’t give him much space. He still had a couple of chances. We managed to contain him.”

Mulamba is expecting another tough match against Austin today, especially after Austin’s spirited effort in the second half on Tuesday.

“It wasn’t easy,” Mulamba said of the 1-0 win.

“We really dominated in the first half. In the second half, they pressured us.

But we were able to hold our formation and kept our cool.

They had more chances. We didn’t give it away.”