By Kim DeRaedt
Galveston Pirate SC and the Southern Premier Soccer League (SPSL) have been in play since the beginning of October. For two months, Pirate SC has shared the waters with Regals FC as both clubs have kept their distance while sailing atop the league standings. Come spring, however, the championship will be up for grabs. Everybody knows a Pirate isn’t about to share its ship, “champion”ship that is.
Pirate SC must defend its territory starting now. It cannot let the enemy escape unscathed when Regals FC casts its anchor at Courville Stadium this Saturday. The visitors have gotten the best of the Galveston gang in each of the teams’ first three meetings. Regals FC has prevailed over Pirate SC 3-1, 5-1 and 2-1 respectively in the teams’ two friendly games and Houston Cup matchup dating back to July.
There was hardly anything friendly about these early duels nor would “rivalry” be a sufficient term to sum up these two clubs’ detest for each other. Of the 60 SPSL games scheduled for this season, Galveston coach Brendan Keyes believes this is “the one”.
“This will be the most intense game of the year,” Keyes said. “We’ve had this game circled on our calendar and have been waiting for five months. It’s the game everyone wants to play in. All of my players are working extra hard to keep their spots. ”
Keyes will elect to go with experience and familiarity as he pencils in his lineup for the big game. He’ll likely stick with the same 11 starters whom have carried Pirate SC since its inception and kept the team unbeaten since mid-September. Keyes knows what he’s bringing into the game, but his opponents are a different story.
“Regals FC has a different team every time it takes the field,” Keyes said. “I know who I have on the other hand. I have the best defense in the league and the best player in the league. Roy Hernandez is the Golden Boy, and our defense has conceded one goal this season. You can’t beat that.”
But Regals FC did beat that and beat it three times. Keyes is hardly concerned, however. He believes the ball is in his home court this time and is bound to bounce Pirate SC’s way.
“The first time we played Regals FC, we were a brand new team and hit the woodwork five times,” Keyes said. “The second time was at their place, and we were up against the referees too. You can’t win when it’s 14 against 11. The third time, we killed them in the second half, and their goalkeeper came up big. This time is ours.”
Indeed, Keyes is convinced that he has the best squad in the league and isn’t afraid to say it.
“The way I look at it,” Keyes said, “it’s a three-horse race for the championship. “We’re number one, Tulsa Lobos FC is number two and Regals FC is number three. Tulsa will be our greatest rival in terms of a challenge, but Regals FC is our greatest rival in terms of wanting to win.”
Wanting to win is one thing, but Galveston “needs” to win this weekend. Pirate SC has a game in hand and is three points behind Regals FC. The last thing Galveston wants is a six-point deficit on the road to Tulsa the following weekend. This only adds more importance to Saturday’s showdown, but Keyes’s crew isn’t remotely fazed.
“My guys are relaxed, confident and most of all excited,” Keyes said. “This is our first real game and their first real game also. I’m not impressed with Regals FC. They’re a good team, but we’d be 5-0 if we played those same teams too. They’re in for quite the challenge, quite the surprise when they arrive in Galveston.”
Personally, Keyes can’t wait until Saturday to send and prove a message he has known to be true for so long.
“This weekend, we’re going to let the league know who the best team is,” Keyes said. “It’s time to bring Regals FC back down to earth. They may have a 13-game unbeaten streak, but they haven’t faced Pirate SC yet. They’re going to have to start their count all over again because they’ll be 13-1 when they leave Galveston. We’re going to stick it to them. We’re going to win.”
Saturday’s match kicks-off at 3 p.m. at Courville Stadium in Galveston. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the gate.