By Kim DeRaedt
Both Galveston Pirate SC and Club America Academy needed a victory in their matches on Saturday. A little extra determination, five goals, five red cards and 180 minutes of soccer later and each team walked away with its desired result, albeit neither was a pretty affair.
Galveston Pirate SC opened the gates of Courville Stadium to welcome its archenemy Regals FC in the most anticipated match of the Southern Premier Soccer League (SPSL) winter season thus far. Although Galveston beckoned its opponents to enter, this was hardly a warm, cozy “mi casa es su casa” matter.
Indeed, tensions were on the rise before the game, kick-off only fueled the fire and the flame burned hotter and hotter as the match progressed. Some would say the fire is still burning or at least flickering between these two bitter rivals; however, when the smoke subsides, a 2-0 Pirate SC victory will be left in the ashes.
Pirate SC started out on the attack, but it was Regals FC’s Luis Licerio who struck the crossbar in the seventh minute to nearly put his team on top. That was about as close as Regals FC and its normally prolific attack would get, though. After all, the visitors were up against one of the league’s stingiest defenses. Galveston’s backline has allowed only one goal in its first five matches. With the defense solidified, it was time for Pirate SC’s offense to pull its weight.
It was time for captain Roy Hernandez to do what he has done game in and game out: score. A seemingly natural knack for the goal, Hernandez converted an easy header from inches away after Regals FC’s goalkeeper Joel Recinos did well to deflect the initial shot off the crossbar. Hernandez may have been wide open on his first tally, but his second goal was nothing short of hard work. Just seconds before halftime, Hernandez slipped a brilliant shot inside the right post that Recinos and two onrushing defenders could only watch.
A 2-0 halftime lead put coach Brendan Keyes’s team in a pleasant position and dealt Regals FC a deficit it wasn’t used to overcoming.
“The first goal was great,” Keyes said. “I knew it would be a crucial goal. Whoever scored first was probably going to win, but that second goal was a killer. It took everything right out of Regals FC and understandably so. I felt comfortable, but we didn’t think the game was over by any means.”
The scoring may have been over; however, the action had scarcely begun. Three yellow cards in the first half was nothing compared to the four yellow cards and three red cards that were flashed in final 45 minutes with the game becoming ever more physical and intense. Galveston goalkeeper Eloy Aguirre and Regals FC midfielder Luis Licerio were both sent off in the 79th minute of play. Pirate SC was reduced to nine men in the 87th minute when Rolando Espinosa met a similar fate, but it was too little too late for Regals FC as the team was dealt its first loss of the season.
With the victory, Galveston has a game in hand as it joins Regals FC atop the league table with 15 points. Hernandez’s pair of goals leapfrogged him above Regals FC’s Erick Cruz to put him back in the lead as the league’s top goal scorer with nine goals in five outings.
Speaking of individual efforts and standings reshuffling, Edwin Serrera and Club America Academy were busy making their own noise in a 3-2 victory against Texas Lonestrikers in Houston. Serrera took his team to unfamiliar territory, a lead, in the first 10 minutes of play before a silly mistake enabled Lonestrikers to tie the game back up on a penalty kick. The early goal seemed too good to be true for Club America when the visitors scored again to jump ahead 2-1 at halftime.
Coach Thiago Costa Reis pulled his home side together and gave the team a renewed focus to kick-off the second half. His words certainly sunk into Serrera who tallied twice to complete the hat trick in a come-from-behind victory, the first of Club America’s young history. Reis couldn’t help but be content with his team’s progress so far.
“We played well and really dominated the game aside from a few key mistakes,” Reis said. “Our focus and communication were better. We came back as a group, which shows our new attitude. This definitely gives us a boost for our next game. I’m excited to see what these boys can do.”
Club America Academy jumped into joint fourth place with Texas Lonestrikers by securing the three-point result. The team will look to gain sole possession of the fourth slot when it hosts winless Corpus Christi Fuel next Saturday at 3 p.m.