By Kim DeRaedt
The race is on to be declared the inaugural Southern Premier Soccer League (SPSL) champion. Although the victor won’t be crowned for over five months, Regals FC doesn’t want to be sitting in any position besides league leaders, not even for a split second.
The team supported its championship intentions by dominating Texas Lonestrikers 7-0 on the road in its season opener.
“We wanted to make a statement,” Regals FC captain Jose Sibrian said. “This score has to say something.”
Certainly it does, but for the first twenty minutes fans were led to erroneously believe that a close match was in store. Their first hint that this wouldn’t prove the case came when Erick Cruz crossed to Luis Licerio midway through the first half. Licerio coolly slid the ball under the goalkeeper from just yards away to record the first goal for Regals FC in SPSL action.
Fans’ second through fifth hints came in rapid succession during a ten-minute span to close out the first half. No further clues were needed as to which team was stronger after Regals FC notched four consecutive goals to put the game well out of reach.
Licerio, an All-American Honorable Mention player during his collegiate career at Mid-America Nazarene University in Kansas, quickly began building his legacy in Regals FC’s young history. He tallied the game’s second goal on an assist by Cruz in a nearly identical fashion. Licerio then shared the spotlight as six different players scored for Regals FC in a balanced team effort.
With the game secure, Regals FC coach Miguel Landaverde was able to give his substitutes quality game experience. Even though the team added only two goals to its total in the second half, a 25-yard blast by Erik Rodriguez and close-range tally by Rolando Matuce, Regals FC still dominated possession. The team outshot the Lonestrikers 17-3, with 12 of those shots hitting the target.
Experience, hand in hand with fitness, is to credit for Regals FC’s stellar performance. The team has nearly 80 games under its belt thus far in 2010, while its opponents are still stuck with single-digit game experience.
“The Lonestrikers were just out of shape,” Sibrian said. “You can tell they have potential.”
Texas Lonestrikers coach Gerardo Romero is the first to admit that his team wasn’t up to the challenge.
“Regals FC has good movement, and we just lost our air,” Romero said. “We couldn’t keep up.”
Lonestrikers forward Nicky Wiggins, who also coaches varsity soccer at Nacogdoches High School, added to his coach’s observations.
“You can definitely tell that Regals FC has played together for some time,” Wiggins said. “We’re working on finding our rhythm, and they already have theirs going. They have the skill and the conditioning. It was two completely different teams out there. We weren’t up to par.”
Despite the Lonestrikers still searching for their tempo, Sibrian assures that his team didn’t drop its standard.
“We did play real soccer,” Sibrian said. “We demonstrated what we’ve been working on in practice. It was all one and two touch soccer, no long balls.”
Regals FC showcased the talent that epitomizes the SPSL and sets the league on a pedestal for elite players and teams to aspire to compete in.
“Lots of places need this caliber of soccer,” Wiggins said. “It’s good for both the game and the individual. It’s completely different than what people are used to watching out here. It’s a good, good standard.”
Regals FC returns to SPSL play for its home opener against Corpus Christi Fuel on October 24. Texas Lonestrikers will first host Corpus Christi on October 16.
In other league action on Saturday, Galveston Pirate SC edged Corpus Christi Fuel 2-1 to join Regals FC at the top of the league standings.