Knowing that league leaders Elite had won earlier in the day, the pressure was on the Pirates to win and keep the pressure on as both teams readied themselves for battle next weekend in the first of two matches against each other that will surely decide the destination of the title.
With Elite players and coaching staff watching on, the Pirates focused on the job at hand and started the match against Celtic in their normal manner with some great soccer been played from back to front.
However it was the Hoops that were to open the scoring against the run of play after a longball through the defence was met in the box and buried home to stun the Pirate playing staff and the some 100 fans that had gathered to watch.
Celtic continued to grow in confidence after their goal and continued to ply pressure on the Pirate rearguard with some hard tackling and physical play, but Coach Keyes had already pre warned his players this match would be a battle and in order for the Pirates to win the day, they would need to overcome this style of play meanwhile continuing to play the ball on the ground and outfox the the Celtic team.
The Pirate players were struggling to compete amidst Celtics style and started to launch unfamiliar long balls and crosses up the field;a style of soccer they were not used to playing and continuing to play in this manner would hand the match to Celtic as it suited their style of play.
This unfamiliar pattern of play was rocking the players and was frustrating to watch for the coach as his orders and instructions seemed to be falling on deaf ears by his players as they continued to be out muscled in every department of the field.
However, completely against the run of play, the Pirates grabbed a lifeline when Bryan Mann rose above the defence to head home after meeting an Eric Cruz perfectly delivered cross. The goal lifted the spirits of the team somewhat but still Celtic pegged them back as the Pirate players continued to get a foothold in the play but yet again they showed their strength of character when they took the lead when Carlos Maradiago scored a screamer from 30 yards out to give the Galveston side the lead for the first time in this match.
As halftime approached, the tempo dropped as everyone looked forward to halftime refreshments but with 2 minutes remaining, an unfamiliar mistake from Pirate keeper Isaac Yanez gifted Celtic a goal to make it 2-2 at the break.
It was a disappointing slip up by the keeper but that’s part of the game sometimes and everyone moved on from it.
With the scoreline sitting tied at 2 apiece at the interval, Coach Keyes took the opportunity to tear into his players telling them they needed to get back to playing the Pirate style which is short passes and high tempo.
For the beginning of the second period, Coach Keyes made some personnel changes, putting Jose Alvarez in the middle with Daniel Sosa and the change had an immediate impact on the match.
The Pirates were winning more of the battles in the midfield and it wasn’t long before they went 3-2 up when a ball from Mann found Oscar Carrillio at the back post area and from six yards out made a beautiful volley to the bottom right hand corner of the net.
The match was pulsating and continued to ebb and flow from end to end, at this rate the scoreline could have ended 10-10 but the NPSL bound Pirate team were looking more composed now and began to boss the match and for some chances going begging in front of goal, they would have been out of sight of their opponents.
Celtic fought back though and once again grabbed an equalizing goal after picking up the ball from a slack defensive move by the Pirates, allowing the Celtic attacker through on goal to slot home to make it 3-3.
As the match continued to progress, it appeared that Celtic were content with a 3-3 draw with the high flying Pirate team but Brendan Keyes players had other thoughts on their minds.
They were starting to ping passes abut nicely now, moving the ball around and the movement was increasingly tiring the Celtic players out as they chased the game. This movement eventually paid off when they took a 4-3 lead after a terrific five man passing move that ended with Cruz scoring a beautiful goal when he received the pass from Taylor Lubianski who had drifted past two defenders to create the space for the goal scoring pass.
The game was there for the taking now as the Celtic players looked tired. The Pirate players on the other hand wanted more and on the 81st and 83rd minute, Jose Alvarez added a pair of goals to take his tally to14 in the league this season, making him the leagues top goal scorer and also leading scored for the Pirates.
The match fizzled out after the sixth goal had gone in, and the Pirates knew another three points were in the bag with four matches remaining in the Championship run in for the title.
Coach Brendan Keyes said:”It was really frustrated watching us play like that in the early stages as it’s not our game. I knew if we continued to play in that way we would lose our winning run and potentially blow the chance for the title.”
“I couldn’t believe we scored our opener from a header.” said the coach,”They won everything in the air all day except for that one header but it got us back in the game at a time we were looking out of the running. I think had they scored a second before we equalized, they could have had us.”
“Jose made a big difference today to the team and the goal scorers always get the glory, but I thought Osteven Lopez was fantastic today at left back. We were short today and had to play guys out of position but Osteven looked great in that position. He got himself forward and had some great shots and has given me a headache as I might have to look at him for that position in the future.” said Keyes.
“Listen, don’t get me wrong, we didn’t play well today but we won the three points which is always the aim. With four matches remaining-two of which are against Elite-it’s going to be an exciting run in that’s for sure.” said the Irishman puffing his cheeks.
“This month of March coming up is never ending big games. Elite, Scorpions, National Cup ties against Barracudas and Islanders, Memorial Cupagainst ASC stars, it just never ends. March could either be a memorable month for us or one to forget.” he said.”I could be losing a lot of hair this March,”joked Keyes, “Ask me again in a months time if its all worth it!”
Next up for the Pirates are leaders Elite FC; Matches don’t come any bigger than that!
Marc Roseblade is a contributor for Bleacher Report & NotJustScottishFootball. He also holds PR roles for Ayr United Football Academy & Galveston Pirate Soccer Academy. All quotes are taken first hand unless otherwise stated.