El Paso, TX — There is nothing like a rivalry game to give a team a boost, and for nearly a decade, Premier Development League stalwarts, the Laredo Heat, have been that rival for the El Paso Patriots.
In that respect, though Laredo is within two points of second place and a playoff berth in the PDL's Mid-South Division, the Heat may be just what the doctor ordered to give the Patriots (1-7-1, 3 points, 6th place Mid-South) a pep in their step this Saturday night at Patriot Stadium.
Head coach Francisco "Paco" Chavez's big challenge will be looking for leadership from his youthful team, especially in the absence of forward Kiki Cervantes and defender Hugo Sámano,
suspended after being red-carded in El Paso's loss last weekend. Naoyas Aizawa's return to the lineup last Saturday bodes well for the Patriots offense. The team's leading scorer in 2013 (3 goals), Aizawa was out for three weeks after injuring his leg June 8th. Chavez will also be looking for contributions from younger players like Eric Hernandez, who was a bright spot for El Paso in the team's loss last week to West Texas.
Hernandez made a number of dangerous runs along the right wing, including one that earned the Patriots a penalty kick last Saturday. The Heat (4-2-2, 14 points, 3rd Mid-South) have been a step off of their usual position atop the division, but after the early challenges of US Open Cup travel Laredo has made up ground on divisionleading Austin (7-0-1, 22 points, 1st) and Oklahoma City (5-3-1, 16 points, 2nd).
That said, Saturday's game will be important for both teams -- the Heat, because they're trying to get back into the playoff picture. The Patriots, because they're trying to break out of a five-game losing streak. Saturday night's kickoff is 7:30 p.m. MDT at Patriot Stadium, 6941 Industrial. Gates open at 6 p.m. Children 12 and under get in absolutely free, with adult supervision. For tickets and information, contact the Patriots' front office at 915/771.6620.
Fans and media can follow live, in-game updates via Twitter by following @ElPasoPatriots.