By Kim DeRaedt
Regals FC slept through much of the first half of its game on Saturday but fortunately, the team woke up hungry just in time for the second half of play. With a Snap, Crackle, and Pop—Regals FC put itself back on top of the Southern Premier Soccer League (SPSL) standings with a 2-1 victory over Galveston Pirate SC.
The match didn’t start out so satisfying for Regals FC, however, as the team stared at an empty offensive bowl early on. Indeed, it was visiting Pirate SC that chowed down on the attacking end right after the opening whistle. Justin Santibanez clinched the momentum for Galveston by firing two shots in the first 90 seconds. Santibanez’s speed continued to plague the Regals FC defense as the striker amassed his team-high six shots but couldn’t funnel any on frame.
Nevertheless, it would be Santibanez’s speed and not his shooting ability that would set up Pirate SC’s golden chance of the afternoon. Midway through the first half, Santibanez raced down the left flank and cut into the box where Regals FC defender Robert Hernandez was left with no option but to take him down as he sped by. Jonathan Yanez stepped up to the spot and tucked a mid-height penalty shot into the right side of the net as goalkeeper Marcos Sanchez fell to his left.
Short-handed Galveston found itself up 1-0 on the road against Regals FC in the 29th minute. Clearly, the team had a rough road ahead to seal the three points. Luckily, goalkeeper Eloy Aguirre was alert and agile to pounce on Cesar Silva’s point blank shot and preserve Galveston’s lead just minutes later. Aguirre’s aggressive play prevented Regals FC from completing much of its offensive ploy, while Osama Buazza’s few efforts to connect off the cross with Enrique Gonzalez failed to produce a threat on target.
Pirate SC entered halftime poised and positive, having controlled the bulk of the game thus far on its rival’s home turf. Although Regals FC may have hit snooze when the opening whistle shrilled, the team was not about to sleep through the alarm a second time, not with first-place bragging rights contingent on the result. Sanchez agreed that his team needed a wakeup call and Galveston gave it to them.
“The way we were playing, it looked like we were taking this game as a joke,” Sanchez said. “But Pirate SC is no joke. They were taking it to us, and we knew we needed to step it up.”
Regals FC coach Miguel Landaverde saw the danger and sensed the urgency to turn the momentum and match in his squad’s favor. In a risky move, Landaverde spent his final two substitutions of the day to send Jose Sibrian and Roy Hernandez onto the field to start the second half.
As fans would soon witness, that was the Snap.
“There’s no doubt we had a slow first half,” Sanchez said. “Our subs came on and really strengthened the team. They helped us pull it off.”
Crackle. Sibrian’s eyes got big as he lined up an excellent free kick opportunity just outside Pirate SC’s box in the 67th minute. Paying no mind to the penalty area swarming with a dozen yellow and black jerseys, Sibrian’s shot seemed to have tunnel vision as it whizzed untouched and almost effortlessly into the low far corner of the net.
Tensions began to rise and the pressure mounted with the score knotted at 1-1. With a heated, fast-paced match beginning to boil, it was only a matter of time before there was a Pop. The match almost lent itself to such a storybook ending. Roy Hernandez stepped on as a substitute in his first game as a member of Regals FC and ironically against his former Galveston team. Therefore, it was no secret to every player on the pitch that Hernandez has Pop. He knows how to score, and he did just that in the 81st minute with a diving near-post header off a Luis Licerio cross.
The goal gave Regals FC a 2-1 lead that was never safe until the final whistle sounded. Each side exchanged quality chances in the waning minutes of a chippy ending that was brought to a close before tempers got the best of tired legs.
The three-point victory lifts Regals FC above Galveston and Tulsa whom had sat as joint leaders for two weeks. Nonetheless, Pirate SC coach Brendan Keyes doesn’t see any use in crying over spilt milk.
“There’s nothing wrong with losing to a good team like Regals FC,” Keyes said. “It’s one thing to lose to a bad team, but we’ll learn a lot from this match and move on. I like where we’re at. We have a string of easy games coming up, and I expect to take full points. Today was a great game, and it certainly was one for the fans to enjoy.”
No soccer fan can go wrong with the SPSL: it’s the “Breakfast of Champions!”