A slow start gave way to a worthwhile finish for a Regals FC side looking to rebound from a forgettable performance against Houston Dynamo Academy last weekend. The Woodlands boys pounced on three second half opportunities to pull away from the Sam Houston Bearkats 4-0 in Huntsville last night.
The victory was a welcomed relief and a sign of reassurance that Regals FC has not lost its stride. The team sailed through its first two Southern Premier Soccer League (SPSL) matches and seemed to have capped off October with a River Park Sunday League title to stuff in its back pocket. However, such success breeds confidence, and it took a Halloween humbling for Regals FC to rediscover its hunger. Erick Cruz scored in the final minute to salvage a 2-2 draw with Houston Dynamo Academy in a game that lacked the passion and finesse so typical of the SPSL powerhouse.
Dynamo Academy lured Regals FC into a long ball, kick-and-chase game of soccer, and the outcome was less than stellar. The solution: resume the style of play that has carried the team to an 18-1 goal differential, virtually unscathed, through SPSL action.
Gustavo Rivera capitalized off of just that at Pritchett Field last night when he opened the scoring in the game’s 25th minute. Regals FC pressured the Bearkat defense into surrendering a corner kick, and Rivera outmuscled a crowded box to deliver a well-struck volley past the cemented goalkeeper.
Still, it’s virtually impossible for a team of Regals FC’s caliber to find a timid foe, at least in a match’s early going. Solidifying a friendly against one of the area’s most skilled clubs is a coveted opportunity for any team, and the Sam Houston Bearkats weren’t about to give up without a strong stance. Indeed, the Bearkats posed a respectable challenge, but an air-tight Regals FC defense would have none of it. Midfielder Osama Buazza credits the defensive effort with preserving the lead and enabling the offensive potential.
“The defense did well making sure to pressure the player with the ball as quickly as possible and covering for any mistakes we made as a team,” Buazza said. “Also, our defense did a good job keeping possession and allowing us to start plays from the back.”
It would take a halftime adjustment, however, for those plays to be converted into goals.
“The first half was a bit shaky,” Buazza said. “Maybe we were sluggish from the drive, but we weren’t connecting too many passes together, which obviously stifled our offensive efforts. We started to play our game in the second half, though.”
“Our game” is a reference to the quick, short passes and possession-oriented mind frame that Regals FC has honed in on in training recently.
“In practice, we always stress playing two-touch soccer and focusing on a positive first touch so that we can make quicker decisions. I really feel that we brought what we work on at training onto the field tonight to allow us to go home with another win under our belts.”
No victory would be complete without a little icing on the cake. Three different players helped cap off a pleasing performance with second half goals. Buazza assisted Cruz, whom chested down the service before beating a defender and tucking the ball away neatly into the corner. Rolando Matute followed suit as he shimmied past the goalkeeper and slotted the ball into the left side of the goal. It was then Erik Rodriguez’s turn to close out the night. Cruz assisted Rodriguez’s 18-yard strike that found the right corner and sealed the shutout victory.
Buazza noted that the game was a step in the right direction as the team prepares to resume SPSL play next week when the Texas Lonestrikers crash Legends Sports Complex for a 9 p.m. kick-off on Friday, Nov. 12. First, though, Regals FC will face Club America Academy tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. at La Escondida Park in Houston for a sneak peek at a future SPSL rivalry.
“Overall, I felt that we did pretty well, but I think our defensive shape could still use a slight tweaking,” Buazza said. “Needless to say, our passing, possession and movement off of the ball were the keys to this victory. It’s a step in the right direction. I like what I see.”