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Exciting ending to regular season

Exciting ending to regular season

Heat ties in Midland

By Adam Geigerman
Laredo Morning Times

For a match with minimal implications for its participants other than pride, excitement escalated into a full-fledged frenzy in Midland when the Laredo Heat and Midland-Odessa Sockers closed their Premier Development League regular seasons on Saturday.

The match ended in a 4-4 draw between a pair of teams headed in distinctly different directions.

Laredo (8-2-4, 28 points) clinched the Mid-South Division’s final postseason berth in a 2-0 victory over El Paso on Thursday, while the Sockers (3-8-3, 11 points) saw their hopes of qualifying evaporate weeks ago.

In the beginning 30 minutes, an unfamiliar spectator would think Midland-Odessa was the team destined for the Southern Conference Championships next week rather than Laredo.

An onslaught on Laredo goalkeeper Emmanuel Frias put the Sockers in control with three goals in the first 32 minutes.

In the 12th minute, Midland-Odessa’s Joe Munoz made a clockwork sprint between Laredo’s center backs, slotting his shot low and hard for the first goal. Andres Maldonado delivered the pass for the game’s first assist.

That was the start of Frias’ off-color night; he unusually had trouble with the ball’s bounces off the artificial turf.

A Sockers’ defensive clearance from their own 18-yard box almost found Frias’ net before he could push it over his bar.

Midland-Odessa’s David Gonzalez put on a hat-trick display beginning in the 28th minute, when he took home an unassisted goal for a 2-0 Sockers lead.

He doubled his total and tripled the Sockers’ lead just four minutes later off a through ball off Maldonado’s boot.

It was Gonzalez’s final goal that saved the Sockers from gifting Laredo with 3 road points, as he launched an equalizer to knot the match at four in stoppage time.

His game-saving final goal granted him the hat trick and brought his season total to seven goals.

Laredo’s run from the 34th minute to the clock’s final ticks was equally impressive.

The Heat answered Midland-Odessa’s three unanswered strikes with four of their own, starting with a net-finder by newcomer VcMor Eligwe.

Yair Hernandez was credited with his first assist of the season.

Eligwe previously played for the Sockers.

Less than 60 ticks later, Laredo was at it again but this time from the penalty spot.

A Sockers’ handball inside the box stopped an Eligwe run at goal, but Heat captain Juan de Dios Ibarra made quick work of a low and hard penalty conversion.

After the intermission, Laredo answered with an equalizer of its own thanks to 58th minute substitute Joao Monteiro.

He took a diagonal run from the near-side corner of the 18-yard box and blitzed it into the upper-90 of the far post in the 61st minute, scoring his third goal of the year with his right-footed rocket.

The Heat had a chance to take the lead 10 minutes later when frontline substitute Leon Taylor was dragged down inside Midland-Odessa’s box, but keeper Robin Allard guessed right and saved the penalty kick off Taylor’s foot.

With regulation time winding down, Ibarra nodded an aerial strike toward goal in the 89th minute, scoring as it deflected off a Socker’s backliner.

His two goals put the Heat veteran’s yearly total at four – good enough for a tie for second on the team.

It was all spoiled, by Laredo’s perspective, by Gonzalez – who found the net again in the second of three compensation minutes.

The Heat will now move on to the Southern Conference Championships in Austin, taking on either Panama City Beach or Ocala on July 26 in Austin.