Falcon Bank
Title Sponsor: Falcon Bank
Season Tickets On Sale Now!


Looking back at the good times with the Heat

Looking back at the good times with the Heat

Conference Championship this weekend

By Adam Geigerman
Laredo Morning Times

The Laredo Heat are fast approaching do-or-die time with a Southern Conference Championships semifinal rendevous with the Southeast Division champion Ocala Stampede looming on Friday.

A win would put them into a second match for their lives in as many days, with a chance at competing for a national championship, on Saturday against the winner of the other Southern Conference semifinal.

With so much life-theatening dangers lurking with every flick of their boots, there’s no better time for the Heat’s figurative life to flash before their eyes.

To begin with, as a team, the Heat (8-2-4, 28 points) have made it to the conference semifinal round of the postseason every year since coming into existence and being eligible in 2005.

With nine berths, and counting, Laredo has advanced past the semifinals successfully in seven tries.

The alarming aspect of that statistic is that both the years it didn’t advance have happened recently.

The Heat failed to make it past the first round in both 2012 and 2010; before that, they had never been stopped shorter than the conference championship.

Laredo’s soccer tradition is a very wealthy one, with four national championship appearances and one victory (2007), four Southern Conference titles and six Mid-South Division titles.

Since 2007, the Heat have posted a 63-20-27 record with a plus-118 goal differential.

Every year that they’ve taken to the pitch, Laredo has claimed no fewer than 28 points, but never more than 35, in a season.

All that means is, despite a widely new-look team with only 10 returners, the Heat have maintained their winning standards under second-year head coach Fernando Hernandez.

Like any winner-take-all competition, anything can happen on Friday once the first whistle blows to initiate the Heat’s 5 p.m. match with Ocala.

A backline blunder could put the Heat in a hot spot, but the same is applicable to the Stampede (11-3-0, 33 points).

Despite all the statistics and results that I’ve crunched and spit out this week leading up to Friday, it’s hard to pretend to predict a winner for the weekend’s fixtures.

In the Heat’s case, they just hope the winning doesn’t run dry under the Texas sun.

The Aztex have been named hosts of the Southern Conference Championships, set to take place at House Park on Friday and Saturday.

The Heat will face Ocala in the first match on Friday at 5 p.m., while the Aztex will play the Panama City Beach Pirates immediately following that match on Friday.

The winners of Friday’s semifinals will face off on Saturday in the conference final, set to kick off at 7:30 p.m.

Mid-South honors

With the regular season wrapped, a quick look back can’t be completed without recognizing the division’s leaders — in both good and less-than-sought statistical categories.

Before going any further, it should be noted that these figures are not LMT’s.

Instead, they were taken directly from the United Soccer League’s website, as well as the websites of each individual Mid-South Division participating team.

Out of the division’s six teams, only the El Paso Patriots — who finished at the bare bottom of the table — failed to field a statistical standout of some sort.

The division-winning Aztex dethroned the four-time defending champion Heat thanks in large to the division’s leading goalkeeper, Devin Cook.

Cook only logged 1,080 minutes over 12 matches — 159 minutes and two matches fewer than second-place Emmanuel Frias of the Heat — but his goals-allowed average proved so annorexic, no one came within .500 points of him.

Cooke made 32 saves against 37 shots on frame (.416 GAA) to produce eight cleansheets for Austin.

His only blemish came at the Texas A&M International Soccer Complex against the Heat, a match Laredo won 1-0 in the Aztex’s only loss.

The division’s Golden Boot award also stands as a shoo-in, thanks to expansion-side Oklahoma City FC’s Adam Black and his 11 goals.

The goals seemed to rain in for the Liverpool, England, native as he paced the Mid-South’s second-highest scorer, Austin’s Kristopher Tyrpak, by two tallies.

There is a three-way tie for third in the division with seven goals, including Laredo’s local product Daniel Garza.

Black did his damage despite receiving a red card and suffering a subsequent 1-match suspension, standing in a tie for fifth-most goals and seventh-most points (23) in the Premier Developmen League.

In a recognition of selflessness, Houston’s Thomas Verhaar dealt out a division-high five assists as a bright spot for the otherwise disappointing Dutch Lions.

Two others recorded four assists, while seven had three helpers — including Laredo captain Juan de Dios Ibarra and newcomer Ljubomir Kocic.

Finally, in a less-than-sought statistic, Midland-Odessa midfielder Andres Maldonado-Karo slides in as the division’s most frequent fouler.

He was blown for 24 obstructions over the 14-game season, while Laredo veteran midfielder Greg Mulamba was called for a second-best 16 fouls.