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PDL Preview: Mid South Division

PDL Preview: Mid South Division

Heat hoping for repeat success in 2012

Monday, April 30, 2012
The Laredo Heat rode a strong lineup to the division crown, and an eventual berth in the PDL National Championship game where they fell 1-0 to the Kitsap Pumas a season ago. With both the Heat and El Paso Patriots returning strong lineups, unseating them will be a tough task, but the return of the Austin Aztex and the arrival of the Texas Dutch Lions should add to what is already a highly competitive division.
AUSTIN AZTEX – The Aztex have high hopes for their return to the PDL, with Coach Paul Dalglish building an impressive roster that includes a number of top Texas players. Included in those is former U.S. U20 international Dillon Powers, now a standout at Notre Dame, with Wake Forest’s Michael Lisch and former Aztex goalkeeper Robert Mueller returning to the club. With a passionate fan base behind them, Austin could make a splash in its first season back.
EL PASO PATRIOTS – After an appearance in the U.S. Open Cup, and the club’s first playoff appearance in four seasons, the Patriots are eager to build on their success in 2011. To help them achieve that, the club has brought in a quartet of players from New Mexico, which finished the 2011 NCAA regular season undefeated with the Lobos ranked No. 1 in the nation. Casey Philips, Victor Rodriguez, Lawrence Robledo, and Javier Lane will hope to bring a similar level of success to El Paso this summer.
LAREDO HEAT – The Heat were a whisker away from sending the PDL Championship Game to overtime, only to see Gregory Mulamba’s shot come back off the post. Mulamba returns to the side this season, as do a number of other players including goalkeeper Emmanual Frias, who had a 0.386 goals-against average in six games last season, and Juan Ibarra. The Heat will have to find a replacement for star striker Esteban Bayona, now in the professional ranks, but new coach Fernando Hernandez will be expected to maintain the club’s high standards.
NEW ORLEANS JESTERS – The Jesters have shown great consistency in their first three seasons, finishing .500 each of the past two years. Now Kenny Farrell’s side will hope to take a jump forward and challenge for a second playoff berth in the club’s history. They have a squad that appears capable, with University of Maryland standout Patrick Mullins leading the way for a second season after recording six goals and three assists for the Terrapins this past fall. Mullins is joined by Clemson goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell and Coastal Carolina’s Jordan Schwartz, who appeared in 12 games for the Jesters a season ago.
TEXAS DUTCH LIONS – The sibling of USL PRO’s Dayton Dutch Lions, the new side has combined Dutch and native talent in building its inaugural squad. The biggest addition to the side, though, is Coach Robert Maaskant, who brings an impressive resume to the club. Formerly a player in the Eredivisie, Maaskant led Wisla Krakow to the Polish championship in 2011, resulting in a berth in the UEFA Champions League, while previously having led NAC Breda twice into the Europa League from the Eredivisie. If Maaskant’s experience can be harnessed by his players, the Dutch Lions could be an immediate contender.

WEST TEXAS SOCKERS – The Sockers had big moments a season ago, including a victory against El Paso in their season opener, but they were unable to sustain much consistency, something second-year coach Warren Cottle will be looking for more of this season. He does have pieces to work with, leading scoring Mariano Sapien returns to the side, as does goalkeeper Leif Craddock. With the club’s first three games of the season at home they have the chance to get out to a strong start, which would make a big difference.