“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” -Michael Jordan
Week 4 saw the fall of the last undefeated, untied team in Liga HEB. While Raiders FC have yet to record a loss, only their counterparts at Hurst had won every game going into match day. That changed dramatically. The league is now at its halfway mark, with just about a month left until the Final at Pennington Field. A berth in that match has never been more tightly contested.
Four out of six teams are stacked up at the top of the league, with Raiders holding ten points and two clubs right behind them with nine apiece. FC Hurst surrendered their death grip on the top slot this week, and Spartans continued to vie for supremacy at Central by adding another key win to their collection. Atlético, meanwhile, finished the work of rebounding from their early loss to stake their claim on second place with a dominant performance.
What doomed the former top dogs at Hurst was not the athletic prowess of their rivals, however. Facing a deficit for the first time all season, FC Hurst failed to perform with the level of creativity and possession play that had found them undefeated until now. Atlético beat them at their own game: out-possessing and out-hustling a Hurst squad that was increasingly reliant on its top performers. Skilled players are nice, but one guy can't beat eleven with any kind of consistency. Even the most dominant player in the history of the NBA knew that.
Week 5 will bring an interesting test for each club as they match up with their campus counterparts. For Euless, a pair of struggling teams, Rivalry Week is a chance to finally notch points in a tough league. For Central, it marks a decisive turning point: after battling back into contention with Hurst, both Spartans and Atlético will have one chance to snag bragging rights as the top club on campus. And for Hurst, a tough matchup may well decide which club plays for the cup and which is relegated to cheering from the sideline come March 9.
A quick look at Week 4 Action:
Spartans Notch Decisive Win 6-1 Over Scrappy Stallions
by Steven Jones, with José Cortes (CJH)
Stallions FC are trying hard to right the ship after a disappointing start to the season, and Spartans are the wrong club to meet when looking for a tune-up. Central dominated the game from start to finish, rarely allowing Euless momentum in the attacking third and tallying another sickening offensive display. Their victory was not complete, however, with some work still needed to improve their possession game and reduce unnecessary turnovers. Any passing looks crisp in comparison to Euless's jagged play, however, and Spartans were able to take home a convincing victory despite a tendency to knock the ball out of play.
Both squads roll into the halfway point of the season looking for answers, albeit to very different questions. Stallions will get a shot a their first win next week against in-house rival Real Euless, while Spartans will be working to claim the tie-breaker over Atlético in the event that both Central teams should come into contention for a shot at the trophy. While the team in black will be trying to get momentum on offense, their blue-clad counterparts will be attempting to shore up a defense that has played well but lacked that championship-level finish.
Raiders FC Take Over First Place, Topping Real Euless 5-1
by Steven Jones
That 2-2 draw against Central last week is proving more important all the time. The single point Hurst earned in Week 3 is the difference between them and the next two teams behind them in the standings after their performance against Real Euless this week. Real recorded their first goal of the season during the match and pressured well for most of the 60 minutes they spent on the field. The real difference between these teams was finishing touch and defensive prowess, with Raiders making more of their chances than Euless did of theirs.
Possession skewed toward the red side, but Real looks to be a more complete team than their record would indicate. Their back line is prone to untimely mistakes, however, and Raiders wasted no time in capitalizing on them. At the other end of the field, a limited Euless attack met strong resistance from a back line that has already seen and contained some of the top attacking players in the league. Raiders may be the most well-rounded team in Liga HEB, and they have the chance to prove it next week. For Real, of course, Rivalry Week is a chance to escape the bottom slot in the power rankings; theirs since play began in January.
Atlético Central Makes 3-0 Statement Versus FC Hurst
by Steven Jones
Comeback complete. After narrowly losing their Week 1 matchup with Raiders FC, Atlético had a long road ahead of them. They needed to notch wins every week to keep pace with Hurst, and they took advantage of a soft early schedule to do so. More importantly, they won the game that mattered most and did so convincingly. A few crafty touches around one of the better keepers in the league saw them take a 1-0 lead into the half and expand it in the final 30 minutes. The last goal was mostly just icing on the cake. Things get tougher from here, though, with Spartans-Raiders-Hurst slated down the stretch before a finale against Real Euless. If they're not solidly in the top three spots by Week 8, expect a furious flurry of goals in the season finale.
On the flip side, disappointment is the name of the game for FC Hurst. Given the chance to take a stranglehold on the top spot in the league, they relied too heavily on individual play and failed to shut down a potent and speedy attack from a top rival. Crisp and creative passing has been the secret to success at Hurst thus far, but that formula seemed to break down against a quality opponent. They've got one more breather in their only matchup against Stallions after rivalry week, and then they face the CJHS gauntlet to close out the season.