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PREVIEW: Heat Host Mid-South Rival Dutch Lions

PREVIEW: Heat Host Mid-South Rival Dutch Lions

Laredo faces dramatic home opener at TAMIU Soccer Complex

LAREDO, Texas – The Heat welcome the Houston Dutch Lions to Laredo on May 17 for a Premier Development League-opening match at the Texas A&M International Soccer Complex at 8 p.m., and there’s no shortage of dynamic storylines.

The Heat enter the season eyeing a return to the top of the Mid-South Division after finishing second last year for just third time in the last nine seasons – having topped the table each of the other campaigns. Laredo also enters fresh of a fantastic finish in the second round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, having eliminated Red Force FC via a 90th minute wonder goal by 87th-minute substitute Daniel Garza. That match pushed the limits, having seen four players receive red cards with the score knotted until Garza’s winner.

With their survival through to the third round of the Open Cup, the Heat waited until Friday to see the draw for the fourth round – featuring the entrance of the nation’s top tier Major League Soccer. The draw determined the winner of the Heat and Fort Lauderdale Strikers’ third round match will travel to face the Houston Dynamo.

“This win was obviously important,” Laredo coach Fernando Hernandez said. “But we have to put it behind us, starting now. All we should think about is the Dutch Lions. That’s the next goal, to beat a team that’s already played once and faced the toughest competition in our division.

“We will be focused on getting a win – not just a result – in front of our home supporters.”

But first, the Heat initiate league play with the Dutch Lions – a team desperately searching for a rebound after suffering a 5-0 defeat at the Austin Aztex on May 10. The The Aztex scored four of five goals in the opening in front of 1,748 fans.

''I think this was a big test for all of our players for the PDL Season 2014,” Houston coach Marco Pruis said. “It’s tough to lose 5-0 but we did see some positive things during the game. After the second goal we started to play as a team like we are used to. Unfortunately we got scored on twice after we picked up our game, but that’s the game of soccer.

“Now we are going to work hard to prepare for the next game against Laredo Heat. We know what we have to work on and where to improve.”

Houston brings a familiar face to town as well: former Heat goalkeeper Emmanuel “Bebo” Frias. Frias, an assistant coach at TAMIU, had to leave the Heat because of the NCAA’s rules against coaches playing their NCAA team’s players. TAMIU and the Heat have a strong history of fielding the same players because of the convenience of sharing a city. Consequently, Frias – a Houston native – joined his hometown PDL franchise.

For the Heat, Frias fared much better than his Dutch Lions opener. He appeared in 35 games from 2011-13 – including the 2011 national championship – with a .758 goals-allowed average and 15 clean sheets.

The Heat pack their own punch, including the return of all-time leading scorer Felix Garcia, former San Antonio Scorpion Esteban Bayona and the game-clinching Garza. They join Madrid, Spain, native Miguel Fernandez – who converted a penalty kick in the Open Cup – in front of a possession-pursuing midfield including veterans Greg Mulamba and Juan de Dios Ibarra and newcomer Marcus Watt.

A towering and physical backline with veterans Yair Hernandez and Frank Lara flanking newcomers Kaique Fernandes and Matthieu Braem stand as the defense in front of keeper Jorge Ortega. Both Fernandes and Braem join the Heat fresh off a NJCAA national championship with Iowa Western Community College, along with second goalkeeper Will Lukowski.

“Our team is prepared,” Fernando Hernadez said. “Especially after the fireworks in the Open Cup, our players are excited to get back out there and to improve their play and get another positive season started. The veterans and newcomers are meshing and itching for more action.”

The match kicks off at 8:15 p.m. and will be streamed live and for free at www.YouTube.com/LaredoHeatSC.  

Each home game – both in the Open Cup and the PDL – will see the Heat offer four fans a chance at winning $500. If the randomly selected fans can bury an undefended penalty kick at halftime, they will win $400 for themselves and $100 to the evening’s selected benefactor.

About the PDL

The top developmental men’s league in North America, the 2014 PDL featured 64 teams within four conferences throughout the United States and Canada. The PDL season consists of 14 regular season matches for each team, seven home and seven away, and provides elite collegiate players the opportunity to taste a higher level of competition while maintaining their eligibility. In addition to league play, PDL teams compete in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup as well as various exhibitions. The PDL has proven to be an important stepping-stone for top professionals now playing throughout the world.

 

For additional information on the tryouts, sponsorship opportunities, tickets, the Heat Club Card and the Laredo Heat Soccer Club, please contact the Heat Front Office at (956) 723 – 4700; visit our website at www.laredoheatsc.com , LIKE us on Facebook www.facebook.com/laredoheatsoccer or Follow Us on Twitter @LaredoHeatSC.