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Heat is On!

Heat is On!

Top defense faces Austin's top offense

By Matthew Goricki
Laredo Morning Times



In the last match up between the Laredo Heat and Austin Aztex, Laredo showed a good defense is better than a good offense.

Today, the Heat want to prove that point again when their league-best defense plays the league-best offense of the Aztex.

“We expect a tremendous game again from a team of tremendous players,” Heat coach Fernando Hernandez said through a translator. “We are expecting a tough match-up and will try to play very well to get the result we want.”

The result last game was in Laredo’s favor, as the visiting Heat shut down Austin in a 2-0 victory on June 9.

Today’s game begins at 8 p.m. at the Texas A&M International Soccer Complex.

In the last game between the teams, Austin came into the game as the first-place  team with an offense that was scorching opponents.

That same offense could produce little against the Heat, even though Laredo was playing without top defenseman Adan Villavicencio.

Martin Moreno filled in perfectly at the centerback position against Austin and has kept up a high level of play every game after that. Since Villavicencio’s injury, the Heat have posted three consecutive shutouts over Austin, Texas and El Paso.

The Heat (5-1-1) have moved past Austin (4-3-2) into the top spot in the Premier Development League’s Mid-South Division, even though Laredo has played at least two fewer games than every other team in the division.

Laredo’s play against Austin seems to have been a turning point in the season after the Heat tied West Texas the previous game.

Midfielder Juan de Dios Ibarra and striker Irving Villanueva each scored against Austin, while the defense and midfield stifled Austin’s high-powered attack.

The Aztex still lead the league with 23 goals, but they will be facing a Laredo team that has allowed a league-low five goals.

“With their good offense and our good defense, the game should equal out,” Hernandez said through a translator. “The whole team played a role in shutting them down last game.

“That’s why we shut them down.”

In Austin’s only game since the loss to Laredo, the Aztex fell 2-1 to El Paso on Saturday. This should encourage Heat fans because that same El Paso squad lost to Laredo 1-0 on Friday night.

Those two losses, combined with back-to-back ties with New Orleans, mean Austin is in the midst of a four-game winless steak after starting the season 4-1 with 14 goals.

The Aztex are still a dangerous team, though, especially on the offensive end.

Seventeen-year-old striker Kekuta Manneh leads Austin with six goals, followed by Kristopher Tyrpak with four and Tony Rocha, William Morse and Jesus Cortes with three apiece.

It is Manneh and Cortes who particularly worry Hernandez, though he believes his players will again be up to the task of clamping down defensively.

“(Manneh) has a lot of velocity on his kicks,” Hernandez said through a translator. “He came very close to scoring last game. Another player to watch is Jesus Cortes. They form the base of their offense. They complement each other very well. They had a lot of shots.”

Striker Horacio Leal is expected to miss tonight’s game with a knee injury. Hernandez said Leal hurt his right knee in Laredo’s 5-0 victory over Texas on Wednesday.

Leal, who missed Friday’s game, may have a bruised knee, though Hernandez said the extent of the injury is unknown.