On Thursday and Friday of last week Houston Dutch Lions FC’s Texas Premier Soccer League (TPSL) squad participated in the group stage of the inaugural Texas Cup. The team played two games in two nights as they looked to advance to the Cup semi-finals in a group that included Houston Hurricanes FC and Houston Leones FC. All matches were played at Maya Park.
Thursday – Houston Dutch Lions FC vs. Houston Leones FC
On Thursday evening the Lions had a late start with a 9 pm kickoff against Houston Leones FC. It was an extremely chilly night and it would turnout to be a very tough game for the Lions. In their only meeting of the season the Lions defeated a depleted Leones team 2-0 in the season opener. The Leones had played the HDLFC extremely close in that matchup and Coach Marco Pruis knew the Leones would be a tough first round match. The game got off to an bad start when only 1 minute into the game Lions goalie Dylan Meeker was called for a penalty and the Leones were able to step to the spot for a penalty shot. The Leones converted and put HDLFC into catchup mode almost as soon as the game started. After the early goal, the game calmed down as both team tried to look for scoring opportunities. Unfortunately it would be the Leones that would get the opportunity to add to their lead as they struck again in the 20th minute to take a two goal lead on the Lions at 2-0. For the first time all season the Lions found themselves trailing in a match and would have to work hard to try and get back into the match. In the 37th minute the Lions finally got onto the board when Javier Vazquez worked hard to pressure the Leones keeper and was rewarded with a turnover that he turned into a goal that brought the Lions within one at 2-1. Just one minute later midfielder Jose Hernandez looked to tie the game, but his headed effort on goal just skipped over the crossbar. The Lions would go into the locker room down 2-1 at the half.
In the second half the Lions came out aggressive and looking to score. The Lions were looking to use their speed and play more balls over the top to get in behind the Leones defense. After several chances went unrewarded, the boys in orange finally were able to tie the match. In the 61st minute Vazquez took a ball from David Otoya and buried it home to tie the match at 2-2. Three minutes later, the Lions were back at it again. Defender Jonathan Segovia played a nice ball up the right side to Roberto Velazquez who was able to net his 7th goal of the season to give his team the 3-2 lead. It wasn’t long before the Leones answered the Lions goals and tied the match. Leones were awarded a free kick just outside the 18 yard box in the 70th minute and made the most of it as they put it into the top of the net just beyond Meeker. The Lions had several chances to retake the lead, but just couldn’t finish as Vazquez put a 2 on 1 opportunity just wide in the 72nd minute. In the 81st minute the Leones took advantage of some miscommunication in the the Lions defense off of a corner and sneaked the ball past the Lions keeper to take a 4-3 lead. This would remain the final as the Lions lost for the first time this season.
Friday – Houston Dutch Lions FC vs. Houston Hurricanes FC
The Lions didn’t have much time to dwell on Thursday’s loss as they were right back on the pitch Friday night, this time against Houston Hurricanes FC. In their previous meeting this season the Lions had a dominating 5-1 win, but this match would prove to be a bit more challenging. Friday’s match would be an extremely physical match and at times the referee struggled to keep control of the match, as a number of yellow cards and one red card for each side would be issued by the end of the match. The Lions opened the scoring in the 16th minute when Javier Vazquez scored his third goal in two nights, off of a beautiful free kick from distance that beat the Hurricane keeper. The teams would trade punches (literally and figuratively) for most of the remainder of the first half, but over the last 15 minutes there would be a flurry of action. In the 34th minute Lions defender Luke Keogh went to head away a Hurricanes ball into the box but caught the ball slightly off center and it deflected past Lions keeper Israel Becerra for an unlucky own goal and a 1-1 tie. Just five minutes later in the 39th minute David Otoya received a pass from Giovanni Najar near the top of the box and scored in the top right corned off of a rocket of a shot from distance. It appeared that the teams would head to the locker room with the Lions leading 2-1, but Hurricanes FC had one more goal in them. Hurricanes Head Coach Brendan Keyes took advantage of a disorganized Lions backline to score in the 45th minute and knot the score at 2-2 going into the half.
The second half continued just as the first half had as both teams played extremely physical while looking to get the go ahead goal. The Lions would go through a stretch of playing down a man as Erick Suarez was issued a red card, but it wasn’t long before a Hurricane played suffered the same fate and both teams were playing with 10 men. Both squads had several opportunities to win the match, but both keepers made a number of saves to keep the teams tied. The teams looked to be headed for a draw, but it would be a familiar name that would deliver the win for the Lions. Javier Vazquez fought through a crowd in front of the goal off of a Lions corner and was able to net the winning goal in the 92nd minute to send the Lions bench and fans into celebration mode. It was Vazquez’s fourth goal in two nights.
With the win the Lions qualified for the semi-finals of the Texas Cup. They would advance to the finals thanks to a 4-1 win over Regals SCA.
In the other semi-final, Galveston Pirate SC fell to the Houston Hurricanes FC by a 3-0 margin.
The championship game, between the Dutch Lions and Hurricanes, will take place this Saturday night at the Houston Dutch Lions Soccer Complex with a 7:45 pm start.