Sunday, August 20, 2017

USL PDL: 2012 Mid South Champions Laredo Heat take the spoils

We have known for a couple of weeks who from the PDL Mid South Division would be heading through to the playoff stages but one small piece of the puzzle remained unfinished, who would win the title?
Ocala Stampede from the Southeast Division won the rights to host the Southern Conference Championships where they will compete with either IMG Brandenton Academics or Orlando City U23s from their own division as well as the Texas sides Laredo Heat and Austin Aztex from the Mid South Division in the semi final championship matches.

But to decide who would qualify as Mid South title winners would require a final night of matches to take place with both leaders Laredo Heat and second placed Austin on the road with tough ties against El Paso and New Orleans Jesters respectively.

 

It really was a case of win and you’ll win the league for Laredo Heat with Austin hoping that their rivals would slip up if they had any chance of taking the title in their inaugural year.

Austin knew that victory wouldn’t automatically give them the title but wanted the momentum of the win to take to next weeks semi final match in Florida but the match didn’t go the way as they had hoped.

With New Orleans knowing that victory would keep them from finishing in bottom spot, they were never going to be a push over on their home turf and this fight and determination showed throughout the 90 minutes as they battled and defended with a strength that had it been shown in the previous 15 matches, they might have found themselves at the top end of the table instead of the bottom.

The match was swinging from end to end but between excellent goalkeeping and defending, both teams seemed to be able to keep the other at bay through the opening 45 minutes.

The second half was much the same, with efforts heading goal bound at either end but neither able to make the breakthrough that they needed to take the lead.

Both teams made changes to the playing staff in the time leading up to the end in an effort to swing the match in their favour and just as time was running out, New Orleans Fisher received his marching orders after his second yellow card to leave his teammates to run out the little remaining time a man down.

However this loss didn’t dissuade his team from attacking and just as it seemed the sands of time had out, up popped Caio Cruz for the home team to score with a stoppage time goal that left his opponents very little time to respond to.

In simple terms, it really was too late to change the outcome and the whistle blew just moments later to hand the points from their final league match to New Orleans Jesters.

In the later kickoff in El Paso, Laredo knew before kickoff that their rivals had been beaten which meant that no matter the outcome of their own match, they were divisional champions 2012.

That didn’t stop El Paso from trying to crash the party though as they made their intentions clear after 32 minutes with the opening goal from Griego who nodded home a Cervantes free kick.

Not exactly going to the league leaders script thus far but the champions strength and determination has helped push them through some tricky ties this season and this willingness to grab the points in each and every game showed as they received a penalty kick right on the half time mark which was expertly slotted home by captain Juan de Dios Ibarra to tie the score at 1-1 going into the break.

Going a goal behind seemed to spur the Heat players on and this prod of surprise rallied the players in the second period and after only six minutes played of the half, added another goal, this time from Daniel Garza to make the score 2-1 in favor of the Laredo Heat.

The game seemed to be petering out as time clock worked it’s way towards the 90 minute mark but the Heat weren’t finished yet as Garza scored his second of the night, his sides third with 13 minutes remaining.

As if to rub salt in the open wound of defeat, El Paso suffered the indignity of being on the end of a freakish bounce of the ball when nearing the goal net before it ended in the goal to make the scoreline 4-1 for their opponents on the night.

The better team won on the night, especially with a tremendous second half performance from the title winners and after soaking in the fact they won the divisional title 16 matches played, they now look forward to heading to Florida next week for their tie against IMG Brandenton Academics or Orlando City U23s.

Laredo Heat have now won the Mid South Division for the previous four seasons and six times out of the previous seven so they have proved that they are the benchmark for others to aspire too. Austin ran them close this season and it took until the final match to decide the title outcome which is pleasing from an overall perspective as it creates excitement and a higher level of competition in the area.

Our congratulations go to both teams for allowing us to spectate such a tremendous season, indeed to all the teams involved who have all given us so many thrills and spills, goals galore and plenty of action.

Now we move onto the playoffs and for our two Texas teams, we wish them the best of luck as they head out to Florida.

Follow Marc and soccer_texas on twitter @soccer_texas

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