By Kim DeRaedt
Galveston Pirate SC coach Brendan Keyes drove around the city on Friday with the windows down on his red convertible and the sun gleaming off his shades. He turned up the music as he rolled past a group of ladies ogling at him from outside of Starbucks. Ok, so maybe it didn’t happen quite like that, but Keyes was certainly dressed to impress as he sported the team’s new uniform prior to Pirate SC’s two critical matches this weekend.
Keyes did catch a wink, a smile and a friendly hello as he strolled through the aisles at Wal-Mart with the Pirate SC badge proudly printed on his flashing white jersey. Although he liked the fit, as Keyes picked up a bottle of Tide, he couldn’t help but exclaim, “I can’t wait to get this dirty.”
In other words, he can’t wait to make history. It may be 2010, but on Sunday, Courville Stadium will add a new chapter to its record when Pirate SC squares off against Corpus Christi Fuel in the first-ever semi-professional game held on the grounds. Keyes hopes to show the sports diehards of Galveston that it was well worth their wait.
“This is the first time a sports team of this caliber has played at Courville Stadium, and we want it to be staged as just that,” Keyes said. “This means both on and off of the field. We want the concessions, merchandise sales and announcing to be smooth. Plus, we want our players to deliver a professional-level product on the field.”
If professional implies winning, Keyes and his Pirate SC squad should have no problem fulfilling the latter requirement. The club is in the midst of its longest winning streak at five games and counting, and hasn’t lost since mid-September when the team was edged 2-1 by Regals FC in the Houston Cup final. During this time, Galveston has amassed a 25-3 advantage in goal differential, including an 11-1 thrashing that it handed Houston Heat in its latest friendly. Thankfully, goals and victories are the two things Pirate SC fans are most interested in. Keyes doesn’t plan to disappoint the home crowd.
“I feel that we will have the best attendance in the league,” Keyes said. “I’m anticipating at least 1,000 fans for Sunday’s match. We want it to be like this for every home game. The way to keep fans coming back is to score and to win. I expect us to be proficient at both this season.”
Still, Keyes understands that this comes only as a by-product of good soccer.
“The result is what is most important to me, but the performance also means a lot,” Keyes said. “We want to maintain a style of control and short passing. No long balls. This will get us the three points.”
The Galveston group sits at a comfortable 2-0 in the Southern Premier Soccer League (SPSL) standings, but winning hasn’t come that easy for Sunday’s opponent, Corpus Christi Fuel. Coach Patrick Esqueda leads his young team into the weekend road trip searching for its first victory after a 0-5 start.
“We’re desperate for a win,” Esqueda said. “I don’t want to say this is the last chance, but for some of our guys, it’s now or never. The time is winding down, and soon I’m going to have to decide which players to keep on my roster and which to send to the reserves.”
Although the Fuel is chasing points and chasing the clock, Esqueda believes his team is more prepared now than it was at the beginning of the season. Corpus Christi surrendered an early lead to fall to Galveston 2-1 in the teams’ season opener.
“We will be a fitter team this time around,” Esqueda said. “Not too much will be different, but I think our team chemistry has improved as well. Hopefully, we can put these things to good use.”
With a 2-1 score line in the teams’ first matchup, it would only take a minor change to produce a major difference in the result. Luckily for Pirate SC, the team may just have the biggest difference maker in the league. Captain Roy Hernandez has tallied 26 times in 2010, including three of Pirate SC’s five goals in SPSL action. Although Hernandez’s skill is undeniable, Esqueda isn’t about to fret over a lone attacker.
“Roy isn’t a big issue for us,” Esqueda said. “As long as everyone plays his position, things will take care of themselves. We need to find our structure, focus on basic ball control and avoid easy turnovers in order to win.”
The real issue may not be who or what Pirate SC has but rather who or what the Fuel is without. Corpus Christi will travel without its captain Logan Garza and defensive anchor Josh Vela. However, a road-weary Fuel squad will meet equally exhausted Pirate SC players whom will be hours removed from their Saturday matchup against Club America Academy. Keyes believes this will set the stage for an even battle.
“We have the advantage of playing at home, but we have the disadvantage of playing back-to-back,” Keyes said. “I hope to get an early lead against Club America Academy and rest three of my key players. When Sunday comes, there’s no messing around. Sunday is history in the making.”
Be a part of Galveston Pirate SC history when Sunday’s match kicks-off at 3 p.m. at Courville Stadium. Tickets are $10.