We call this set of fixtures ‘Rivalry Week,' but we do so with tongue planted firmly in cheek. Talent tends to be heavily split at each campus in Liga HEB. Every school has a winning club and a losing club. Their identities flip-flop from year to year, but the premise remains the same: there's an ‘A' Team and a ‘B' Team; a squad full of veterans and a team of younger students learning to play as a unit.
But they love getting to square off with each other once a year.
Inclement weather pushed Rivalry Week back to the final days of the regular season this year, leaving the results relatively unimportant as the standings were already set. But the league's top clubs — who meet in the Champions Cup Match next week — took full advantage of one last opportunity to tune up.
Stallions FC Handle Real Euless, 2-0
Real Euless have struggled all year and its no surprise that they couldn't find much in the tank against their sister club. Stallions did well to pressure the ball and keep the game contained to a single half of the field. The few chances that Real Euless found on the counter fizzled out when their young players felt pressure from oncoming defenders and pulled the trigger too soon. That said, they held Stallions scoreless for the first half hour.
The close scoreline may have been an intentional choice from Coach Davilla, who sat a few players because of their attitude and behavioral issues this week. Knowing that he would qualify for the championship game even by losing, he took the opportunity to get their mindset right before a tough re-match with the only team to beat them this year.
The Horsemen didn't have to worry about any tiebreakers or bragging rights this week, though; finding the net twice in the second half — once when a missed look at an open goal drifted through the 6-yard box and found a poaching striker's foot — to put the match away. Players laughed and smiled their way through this one, even helping their rivals get back to their feet after faux injuries. We'll know soon enough if their scrimmage-style approach to the final week was the right recipe to bring a second consecutive Championship to Euless Junior High.
Spartans Close 2019 With 6-0 Domination of Atlético Central
Aside from bragging rights, nothing hung in the balance for Central's teams this week. But bragging rights mean a lot at a school that has struggled to hold onto its reputation for quality soccer in recent years. Both sides needed to finish the 2019 season on the right foot, and their ulterior motives shaped the result: Spartans needed a therapeutic, lopsided win. Atlético needed to test the depths of their roster for 2020.
Central has a broader talent gap than perhaps any other campus. Their lesser team is very young, and many players are still learning the fundamentals of the game. But the Blues played an organized system that saw them through the first twenty minutes with a legitimate shot at tying Spartans or even stealing a win. Then they gave up a pair of goals to end the half and any hope of making a statement disintegrated.
With the match out of hand, coaching staffs at each school focused on their desired outcomes. Atlético rotated players through every imaginable position and formation to test the lineup for next season. Spartans exploited the chaos to put away a fistful of easy goals. Time will tell if they really go what they needed, but most everyone went back to the locker room with a smile on their face.
Raiders United Sweat Out 3-1 Win Over Hurst City
In four years of Champions Cup tradition, no #1 seed has ever come into the match with a loss on their record. The title favorite is always undefeated, and almost always wins. Raiders United nearly fumbled that record in their final match of 2019.
The top team in the league walked into Rivalry Week with a lackadaisical attitude, expecting to handle The Other Club at Hurst with relative ease. Then Hurst City broke through the Reds' back line on an early through ball and buried a shot low at the right post. For the first time all year, Raiders were trailing. They seemed unconcerned, however, and continued batting the ball around without intention for most of the first half, managing to equalize on a quality finish just before the break.
A draw, while more acceptable, would still be a blemish for this team. City wanted to hand it to them, and it showed. Their keeper played with his hair on fire for most of the match, even making an incredible reflex save to protect the tie in the early minutes of the second half. Despite all their showboating, however, Raiders United found just enough punch to put the game away in the final ten minutes. Now the question remains: was this the stress relief they needed after a long season on top of the table? Or will it prove to be a costly attitude shift that could put them on the back foot next week?
The 2019 season is almost over, but you can still join us for the Champions Cup Match! Kickoff is scheduled for 6:00 PM on April 3, with Pennington Field serving as the site once again.