Liga HEB kicked off the 2017 season with all the explosive scoring that has come to define the early weeks. Just like last year, two teams battled out a close game while the other four found themselves wrapped up in blowouts. It's still too early to call any team a favorite to win the cup, but Hurst Junior High has their eyes on a one-school championship game. And they're not crazy to think that it might happen.
So far this season, students in Liga HEB have learned about Joy and Purpose. The new character curriculum kicked in last week, and the boys in Hurst seem to have taken it to heart. Every player wore a smile along with his uniform on Wednesday night, and nothing could distract them from their goal. Even after the sun set and the party was played out in LED lighting.
That doesn't mean that the other clubs missed the lesson, though. There was an abundance of joy on the fields behind Central Junior High even though most of the games shied away from “competitive” by the end. All 96 rostered players were invited to share in a post-match festival sponsored by 6 Stones. Each of them stuck around to party, and many of them spent the night chatting with their rivals over a sandwich.
That unity — and the character they displayed on that night — is worth more than any game could be. But the games still mean something, so here's the download:
Hurst City Tops Atlético in Opening Day Upset
We knew this would be a tough year for Atlético, but we didn't think it would be this tough. Central lost a hefty portion of players during the offseason, and a lack of veteran leadership has made it difficult for their new coach to build a winning culture. There's talent on this squad, but not a lot of team chemistry yet. Flustered by a crisp, possession-oriented Hurst City, ACFC found themselves running a one-dimensional attack. A handful of All-Star attackers struggled to find each other in the final third of the field. Skilled strikers dribbled through three men only to run headlong into the last defender.
On the other side, Hurst rolled out an undersized lineup with oversized hearts. A predominantly seventh-grade side ran with (and sometimes over) their foes. Simply put, they out-hustled the Blues and then out-possessed them. By taking advantage of Central's offensive struggles, Hurst was able to hold the ball in front of their opponent's net for most of the game, scoring on a controversial corner kick and a couple of absolute howlers inside the box.
All that said, Atlético nearly leveled the score on several occasions and could have walked away with a point if the ball had bounced differently. It's an inauspicious start for the ACFC, but not an insurmountable one. It'll be out of the frying pan and into the fire next week against Raiders United, though.
Raiders United Roll Over Spartans FC to Start 2017
Things got out of hand quickly on Field 2, as Raiders United buried their first chance and never looked back. Almost every offensive player got in on the action for the Reds, with several recording braces and a lot of lose balls taking favorable bounces on top of it all. It's pure magic when this offense is clicking.
Raiders head coach Franky Girau had his boys in top form for the opener, unlocking a shaky Spartan defense with through balls and one-touch wall passes in every sector of the field. Take, for example, one of the more impressive goals notched in the first half. A turnover near midfield found a Raider foot, popped over the Central midfield, and was volleyed beyond the defense without hitting the ground. A short footrace and a flubbed save later, that ball was in the back of the net. A Girau team is always going to play good, technical football, but this was a masterclass in possession-based, momentum-building offense.
It's tough to know if United's defense is as strong as their attack; the high press they played left the back line with little work to do. Spartans FC has good pieces, but lacked the discipline to make much of them. The first touch continually let them down often, and both the back line and the midfield spent more time chasing loose balls than connecting passes. This is a team in need of an identity. The good news? They've got a chance to find it next week against Real Euless.
Stallions Smother Real Euless for Long-Awaited Win
Stallions, who finished the 2016 season without a point, finally have some swagger. The Horsemen launch their new season with more goals in one match than they scored in the previous year, taking revenge for the pair of losses handed to them by their on campus rivals, Real Euless.
This looked to be a tight match early on, with most of the action coming in the second half. Stallions ran a hungry offense, finding themselves offsides more than once but dominating the run of play in the process. Their forwards have great individual skill, and they seem to be getting a feel for the creative side of the game. Given the chance, this club will work the ball in and out of the center midfield just long enough to spring a winger down the sideline. By the end of the game, Real Euless was simply too tired to chase the ball any more.
It's going to be a long year for the boys in white. Their defense isn't nearly as porous as the tally suggests, but they're going to have a hard time staying in games if they can't find the discipline to maintain their shape. Real slipped into counter-attack mode against the physically imposing Stallions, a gambit that could have paid off if the attack hadn't betrayed the defense. Midfielders consistently failed to track back, and defenders couldn't close down the space between the penalty box and midfield. The result was a brutal onslaught that saw the ball in the net back of the net more often than it deserved to be.