By Kim DeRaedt
When Tulsa Lobos FC and Corpus Christi Fuel square off this weekend, it will represent the union of the Southern Premier Soccer League’s (SPSL) current northern and southern most members. However, geographical distance isn’t the only thing separating these two teams.
Indeed, if opposites attract, then sparks ought to surely fly in the back-to-back matchups at Fairgrounds Field in Corpus Christi. Tulsa Lobos FC enters the weekend’s battles with a clean slate. Meanwhile, the host Fuel is looking to wipe its slate clean and forge a new beginning.
Corpus Christi would rather forget its early memories of SPSL action. The Fuel has fallen in each of its first three matches. The first two were heart-breaking 2-1 defeats versus Galveston Pirate SC and Texas Lonestrikers. The Fuel’s most recent result was an 11-1 thrashing at Regals FC. Corpus Christi coach Patrick Esqueda described the hammering as an eye-opener, a deer-in-the-headlights moment for some overconfident youngsters.
“We had some guys walk into the Regals FC game really confident,” Esqueda said. “They didn’t have a clue. The players got a rude awakening. I think they have a clue what this is all about now.”
Esqueda is hoping to turn over a new leaf from the comfort of his home grounds.
“It’ll be nice to be home again with the support of our fanbase,” Esqueda said. “Our guys won’t have weary legs before they even take the field. We showed stronger at home last time. My goal is to improve upon that performance.”
Still, Esqueda recognizes that his team can’t go from 10-goal losers to superstardom overnight. It’s all about progress, persistence and perception.
“I just want to see small steps,” Esqueda said. “It’ll take time, but I felt as if some of the players flat out gave up last game. Nobody wanted to listen. They have to realize that the coaches can see what they cannot and respond to our instructions. It’s about trust.”
While Fuel players have to have faith that they can turn their sluggish season around, Tulsa Lobos FC has no reason not to believe that they can find success in SPSL action. With utter indifference toward their opponents’ hurting egos, the Lobos will look to make a quick impression on inquisitive league onlookers.
Tulsa coach Carlos Pilo Godoy and his crew will endure a 14-hour bus ride to Texas’s southern shoreline, and Godoy ensures that his team will make the trip well worth the effort.
“Our guys make a huge sacrifice to take these long road trips,” Godoy said. “They give up their weekends, take off work and leave their families— everything. The last thing we are about to do is step on the field and give anything less than the best of Lobos soccer.”
With that said, the sacrifice is hardly half of the hassle if the return journey is spent celebrating a pair of victories. Godoy predicts that his team will be happy passengers more often than not this season.
“We play a good game,” Godoy said. “You’ll see a lot of short passes and no long balls from us. We keep control from front to back.”
Godoy points to the strong play of Brandon Waller defensively and Eric Chiato’s offensive presence to help solidify the power of his veteran squad. Meanwhile, Esqueda and his Corpus Christi crew will welcome back the company of young guns Josh Vela and captain Logan Garza to lift the team’s chances.
Young or old, experienced or inexperienced, this weekend’s games will present a unique twist for both sides. Tulsa Lobos FC and Corpus Christi Fuel will kick-off at 7 p.m. on Saturday. The teams will then camp out on the field, or so it will seem, before contesting once again at 12 p.m. on Sunday. Both games will take place at Richard M. Borchard Regional Fairgrounds located off of U.S. Route 77 in Robstown, TX. Tickets for each game are $7 for adults and $3 for youth.