By Kim DeRaedt
Last time Corpus Christi squared off against Club America Academy, the team ran out of gas after a long trek to Houston and succumbed to a 4-1 defeat. This go around, the Fuel hosts Club America and will have a full tank to expend over 90 minutes of play on Saturday.
To its credit, Corpus Christi trailed Club America only 1-0 in the teams’ meeting on Dec. 11 before its engine began to sputter, and the side surrendered three second-half goals. The Fuel sought a maintenance tune up, added some parts, and emerged from the shop as a like-new team. Galveston Pirate SC soon experienced firsthand what happens when the Fuel ignites. In the SPSL-style “Miracle on Grass”, Corpus Christi shocked the league when it defeated Pirate SC 2-1 in Galveston just one week later.
That match was over a month ago, and since then, the Fuel has been eager to put the pedal to the metal and pick up where it left off on Victory Road. Corpus Christi coach Patrick Esqueda assures that his squad won’t be rusty when it rolls out of the garage and onto the field, revved up for its 2011 campaign.
“We have the same core players that we took into the Galveston game, so I have no reason to not have complete confidence in us,” Esqueda said. “If anything, we should be stronger and improve every game as our chemistry improves.”
Esqueda believes a well-balanced team effort will be the driving force behind his squad’s continued success and a dogged spirit will help steer the crew away from the bottom of the SPSL ranks.
“Everyone pulls his own weight and puts in the same amount of work,” Esqueda said. “This contributes to team chemistry. Our guys know each other and play hard for each other. There’s no questioning their hearts.”
Nevertheless, Corpus Christi is not oblivious to the opponents in its headlights. The team remembers the dent Club America left on its frame and isn’t about to let its guard down for another accident to occur.
“I expect a very good game,” Esqueda said. “Club America isn’t facing the same team as last time, and they know it. Instead of preparing for them, we’re going to make them play to our game. They’ll be ready, but we are too.”
A victory would give the Fuel the green light to pass Texas Lonestrikers in the SPSL standings and park next to Club America in the fourth-place spot. Esqueda can’t think of anything better than taking a victory lap in front of the team’s home crowd.
“Our fan support has been growing steadily, which is always promising,” Esqueda said. “They expect to witness a win, and our guys know it. The pressure is on. The way I view it, winning is mandatory, and I think we will do so comfortably. It will be beautiful weather and hopefully a beautiful game.”
Fans are encouraged to watch the derby, with all the excitement of NASCAR minus the air pollution, at Fairgrounds Field in Robstown, TX. Corpus Christi and Club America will accelerate into SPSL action 2011 when the match kicks-off at 3 p.m. Tickets are $5.