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Heat Find Form As Stakes Are Raised

Heat Find Form As Stakes Are Raised

Laredo bulges the net before grueling stretch

LAREDO, Texas – It took three Premier Development League matches and a domestic cup fixture for the Laredo Heat to light aflame, but their 4-0 taming of the Houston Dutch Lions on Tuesday night fanned the combusting flame. With their most daunting difficulties laying ahead, the Heat have found form as a precursor to a historic Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup tie with Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo and a subsequent four-match road stretch.

Laredo (2-1-2, 8 points) catapulted into second place in the Mid-South Division with Tuesday’s victory, overtaking the Mississippi Brilla (2-1-1, 7 points) – who face the unbeaten defending PDL champion Austin Aztex (4-0-0, 12 points) at home on Thursday. Only the top two teams in each division table advance to the postseason, and Laredo’s never missed a postseason it was eligible for in 10 years.

“This is a proud organization,” Heat forward Esteban Bayona said. “From the owners to the ball boys, everyone fights to uphold our high standards. And that’s a big responsibility for all of us in the team as well. We have to score to win matches and we have to win matches to compete into the postseason and other tournaments.

“We know what we have to do, and we know how to do it … now it’s just a matter of execution. And there’s no other group of players I’d rather be doing this with.”

In just the last two matches – in all competitions – the Heat have netted seven goals: a brace by Felix Garcia, an assist and a goal by Yair Hernandez, a heroic stoppage-time penalty kick by Bayona, a tap in by captain Juan de Dios Ibarra, and a pair of uncharacteristic headers by Irving Villanueva and Orlando Alvarado. In the opening three matches, which saw Laredo go 1-1-1, it managed just three goals – including one penalty conversion.

The Heat feature heroes that aren’t shining from the score sheet as well. Fullback Salvador “Chava” Luna and attacking midfielder Daniel Garza share a sixth gear uncommon to most. Opposing defenders are tortured by the pair’s flying feet and precision passing, all of which opens opportunities for their teammates.

Garza has created a handful of Laredo’s goal, although it’s unknown from just the box score. Against the Midland-Odessa Sockers on May 21, he rushed the goalkeeper into an unfortunate and errant pass that was intercepted by Bayona and blasted into the nylon. In the Open Cup’s third round against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers (North American Soccer League), he crossed an extra-time delivery to Bayona’s boots seconds before the targetman was fouled inside the penalty box – leading to the penalty-kick winner. On Tuesday, Garza burned the touchline inside the final third before dealing an across-the-goal ball to Hernandez, who then set up Ibarra’s tap-in.

“Every time I get even close to the ball, I only want it to end one way: in the net,” Garza said. “I think sometimes other teams see how all the Laredo Heat players are maybe smaller or not as intimidating, but we all have our special tools and know how we can use them to create. There’s nothing more fun than taking on a defender head on, challenging him and then seeing how they react.

“Well, the only thing more fun than that is scoring.”

Luna, spinning down the opposite sideline, rocked the Dutch Lions’ woodwork off two masterful strikes – easily giving Laredo for a chance at a six-goal victory. Against the Strikers, Luna chipped the floater that Villanueva nodded home; he fed Garcia a perfectly weighted ball against the Dutch Lions as well.

With the Heat finding their form, a week-long break between competitions may offer challenges, but the looming Open Cup fourth round match against the Dynamo is raising the stakes. The Heat are just the 11th PDL team to advance beyond the third round, while none has advanced beyond the fourth round in the modern professional era. The stage is set as the Heat will travel to play in the Dynamo’s two-year-old soccer-specific BBVA Compass Stadium with a capacity of 22,000 screaming supporters.

The Heat face Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo on June 11 at 9 p.m. at the BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston in the fourth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup at BBVA Compass Stadium. Tuesday saw the draw for the fifth round, as the winner of the Dynamo-Heat match up will host the winner between FC Dallas (MLS) and the San Antonio Scorpions (North American Soccer League).

The fourth round matche will be streamed live and for free at www.YouTube.com/LaredoHeatSC and 8:55 p.m.

Each home game 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.