“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other's life.” –Richard Bach
We call it Rivalry Week, but it's the friendliest week in the season. Two teams from each school — who study together, practice together, live together — finally get to play each other. We do it only once a year, but it's some of the best soccer we play in Liga HEB. It's passionate and beautiful and jubilant. It's family.
With head-to-head play standing as the first tiebreaker, the final results from this week's matches will likely have huge implications for the postseason. There are no longer any undefeated teams in the league, and only one team that has yet to notch a point. It should've been a contentious, high-pressure event. But it was more like a celebration.
There was something in the air on all three fields this Wednesday. Teams that were battling on the pitch came together at halftime, laughing and carousing despite the close scores on all three fields. There was no anger, no jealousy; just the beautiful game. This is why we play: for unity, for inspiration, and for love of the game.
We play because Liga HEB is family, and family strives for the goal together.
Real Euless Grabs First Win, 5-3 Over Stallions
Until this week's matchup, analysts here at Liga thought Real Euless was the weakest team in the league. They were having a hard time putting the ball in the net and an even tougher time keeping it out of their own. That changed in a hurry Wednesday night.
Taking advantage of an early defensive miscue that led to a penalty kick, Real Euless jumped on their schoolmates early and didn't let up, tallying four goals in the opening half and another after the break. None of their work was particularly flashy, and there's plenty of work to be done whipping this offense into shape, but a win is a win and three points are huge for a team that's been struggling to find silver linings of late.
The situation is hardly different for Stallions FC, who now find themselves in an uncomfortable position: the bottom of the league. Players on the sideline and on the pitch were visibly and audibly frustrated by their team's inability to defend and possess the ball consistently, and a few fiery personalities are going to make it difficult for them to rebound psychologically from the loss. Still, they won the second half of the match 2-1 and grabbed a touch of momentum heading into the back half of the season.
2-1 Victory Over Spartans FC Puts Atlético in Driver's Seat
It's no secret that Central is playing the league's best football. Atlético's speed and Spartan's physicality have given the more finesse-and-form clubs at Hurst fits in the last few weeks, and the league has leveled off thanks to their tough play. With the remaining schedule set to match both schools against each other consistently, the season's only meeting between league hosts may prove to be one of the most important results of the year. In all likelihood, only one side from Central will make the final.
Atlético played like it. Dominating in possession and aggression, they kept the ball in front of Spartans' net for the majority of the game and pushed their peers to the breaking point; an impressive feat against a squad that has been tightening down defensively every week. Making the most of a talented right winger, Atlético hammered away at their stalwart foes all game.
Spartans, for their part, held up well under pressure. They managed to keep the match knotted at 1 goal apiece into the second half before finally conceding the go-ahead strike, but they looked gassed by the time it came. Without a true offensive presence, they had no answers if and when they managed to clear the ball away from the box and up the field. They're a good team, but not a complete one, and Atlético was able to break through in large part simply by applying pressure until Spartans broke. The league belongs to Central White at this point.
FC Hurst Handles Business, Holds Off Raiders FC 3-1
In a pivotal match, FC Hurst got what they needed from their brightest stars. Fresh off their first loss of the season, Hurst needed to hang a loss on Raiders FC to stay in the hunt for the Final match at Pennington field. As well-balanced and carefully coached as both clubs are, there was simply more talent on one side of the ball than the other. The gap isn't as significant as a 3-1 tally would suggest, however.
Raiders battled hard to hold onto their top seeding in regular season play, scoring only once but nearly notching a second goal that would have made the match even more intense on several occasions. They moved the ball well when given the opportunity, but struggled to take possession of it once Hurst found its playmakers and let them do the work. There's some real talent on Raiders' club, but they lack the size and touch needed to compete against the better teams in the league.
Hurst, meanwhile, still depends heavily on the touch and talent of a select few midfielders and forwards. It's a strategy that works well if they can snag an early lead, but that betrayed them when a few missteps put them in a 2-0 hole last week. They're a club built for possession play with a nasty tendency to take half a defense on the dribble, but they've managed every game — this week included — so as to avoid the sort of sticky situations that punish them for that habit. Giving up a lead to this team is certain death, but taking one seems to knock them down effectively, as well.