By Kim DeRaedt
After a month of inaction, Regals FC didn’t quite cook up a performance that left the team with a feeling as satisfying as its Saturday night dinner. When a squad is as skilled as Regals FC, however, it can get by with half the ingredients and still pull off a winning result.
The New Year didn’t exactly leave team with the “fresh” feeling that we all too often associate with the holiday. Instead, the Southern Premier Soccer League’s (SPSL) North Houston heroes felt more like flat Coke sitting in a warm garage. Even so, the club had just enough fizz to flow past Texas Lonestrikers 4-0 in its first league match of 2011.
Ironically, it would be 11 minutes into the team’s 2011 campaign when Enrique Gonzalez would find the back of the net for Regals FC. Gonzalez kicked-off the New Year in style with a brilliant far-post strike that curved into the upper 90 from 15 yards out.
The early lead gave Regals FC the confidence to push forward. Rolando Matute fired one of his team-high four shots in the 13th minute that rocketed just high. Gonzalez set up Osama Buazza with a splendid opportunity that Buazza wished he had back after missing near post. In all, Regals FC attempted 18 shots for the game, but it would be late in the first half before one of them became an asset to the score line.
Gonzalez would be the goal scorer once again as he doubled his season total in the 38th minute. Instead of the upper left corner, Gonzalez switched things up and beat Lonestrikers goalkeeper Gerardo Romero to the ball before tucking it away into the lower right crook.
Down 2-0, the Lonestrikers got a little too anxious for halftime to palliate their pain that they permitted Jorge Rivas to ping a low, driven shot off the right post. A Lonestrikers defender inadvertently registered an own goal as he slid in an effort to clear the rebounding ball.
Regals FC went into halftime up 3-0 and seemed to be on pace to record another rout similar to the team’s first two meetings with the visitors, which resulted in 7-0 and 6-0 victories respectively.
This was far from the storyline, however, despite a deceiving exposition. Matute capitalized on a defensive error mere minutes into the half before Regals FC’s scoring machine was switched off.
What resulted was surprise pressure and spark from the opponents. Second-half substitute Jonathan Puentes used his fresh legs to wreak havoc on the Regals FC backline. Lonestrikers mustered 11 shots for the game, most of them in the second half, but only two fell on goal and none posed a serious threat to goalkeeper Marcos Sanchez. The visitors also held a notable 6-0 advantage on corner kicks, but the quality and completion components were lacking from the team’s offensive strategy.
Regals FC defender and elder Robert Hernandez noticed the heightened pressure and felt the effects of a holiday hiatus from soccer.
“The break was more of a detriment than a needed respite,” Hernandez said. “We didn’t train as much, and our conditioning reflected that.”
Hernandez pinned the poor second half to nothing more than fitness.
“We got tired,” Hernandez said. “As our legs went, so too did our touch. We weren’t controlling the ball as well and communication was lacking. Offensively, we needed to convert more of our chances, but at least we didn’t concede defensively.”
Regals FC will have to make sure that it produces a stalwart defensive stance in the future, particularly against Corpus Christi Fuel next weekend. The team knows it’s in for a tough time after narrowly escaping Corpus Christi with a 3-2 victory during its previous trip south. What’s more, the Fuel didn’t let Galveston Pirate SC off the hook so easily as it clinched its first victory in an unforeseen 2-0 upset just prior to the holiday halt.
“Nobody wants to lose to us or lose to us again,” Hernandez said. “We have targets on our backs, and teams are now comfortable with how we play. We have to make sure that we don’t get comfortable ourselves and always strive to improve. It’s not going to be easy, but we know how to play. We know we can do it.”
Regals FC travels to Corpus Christi for a 3 p.m. kick-off next Saturday. In other league action, the much anticipated matchup between Tulsa Lobos FC and Galveston Pirate SC will take place in Galveston on Saturday and Sunday. Those games are slated for 4 p.m. and 2 p.m. respectively.