By Kim DeRaedt
After suffering a narrow 2-1 defeat in its season opener, Corpus Christi Fuel coach Patrick Esqueda will be searching for a victory when his team travels to Nacogdoches today to face the Texas Lonestrikers, a team all too familiar with suffering.
Coach Gerardo Romero’s Lonestrikers have endured two home losses while surrendering 10 goals and being held scoreless in both matches. The first was a 7-0 loss against Regals FC. In the second game, Galveston Pirate SC broke through for three second-half goals and a 3-0 victory.
Although the Lonestrikers may appear down and defeated, don’t expect the home side to sit back and shoulder a third tally in the loss column without putting up a dogged fight.
“We’re starting to come together as a team,” Romero said. “I think the improvement is obvious. We were down 5-0 at halftime in our first game and kept it to 0-0 at halftime of our second game. I definitely believe our guys will continue to progress and give Corpus Christi an even better matchup.”
Meanwhile, Esqueda has no idea what to expect from the Lonestrikers and plans on using this game to feel out the opponent for their three remaining matchups during the 2010 winter season.
“We don’t know who the Lonestrikers are,” Esqueda said. “We’ve never played them, so we’re going into the match totally blind. We don?t know anything as far as their speed, skill or style but hope to figure that out in our first meeting.”
Still, Esqueda has his eyes on the three points to lift his team from the bottom of the league standings and isn’t about to let the seven-hour road trip hamper his expectations.
“This will be our first time making such a long drive,” Esqueda said. “I know what we look like fresh, but it’ll be difficult for our players after sitting on the bus for that long. I’m still hoping to win, though. A 3-1 result would be nice.”
To do so, Corpus Christi will have to amend the flaws from its season opener. Esqueda pointed to communication and fitness as two reasons why the Fuel let an early lead slip against Galveston.
“The Galveston game was only our second time playing together,” Esqueda said. “Our passing and fitness level need improvement. We need to communicate better and connect with each other more fluidly.”
Esqueda doesn’t doubt that his team has the talent to compete at the top of the league. He believes the team’s success will be contingent upon putting that talent to its proper use.
“Some players come in having played one position their whole lives, but they’re best suited for another,” Esqueda said. “It’ll take some time to find players’ natural positions, but this, combined with team chemistry, will be the key to our success.”
Another key to the Fuel’s success will be the play of 22-year-old Logan Garza. Garza has already proven himself to be the team’s leader in the early going.
“Logan is a solid player who can play any position,” Esqueda said. “He plays defense in college and is also a good attacking forward. We use him as a center midfielder because he can take command of the game. That’s where I feel a captain should play.”
Today’s match kicks-off at 1 p.m. at the Expo Soccer Complex in Nacogdoches. Parking is $5.