Playing a vital role in a 1-0 win over Cajun FC Saturday was a thrilling moment for Central Texas Lobos goalkeeper Blake Landon.
Strong play all around, including staving off a furious CFC rally in the final 15-plus minutes, helped the Lobos improve to 2-1 and stay in the top half of the Gulf Coast Premiere League standings.
But the accomplishment meant just a little bit more for Landon. Late last May, Landon suffered a freak lower leg fracture during a Lobo’s home game, putting his semi-pro career in jeopardy.
Tasting victory a full year after that event was ever so sweet.
“It feels amazing. It’s my first taste of victory since our first game last year and it’s our first shutout of the season,” Landon said. “To win 1-0 as a goalkeeper, there is no better score.”
Recently hired manager Jorge Enriquez Cruz-Cruz, who coached in his first game with the Lobos Saturday, pointed to second half defensive adjustments as a factor in the win.
CenTex opened the contest in a 3-5-2 formation in order to have more of a presence in the midfield, which is where Cruz-Cruz felt the battle was going to be.
As the game transpired, CenTex was forced to adjust to Cajun FC’s plan to attack the Lobo flanks with long passes through the air. With only three defenders, Cruz-Cruz said dropping a midfielder was necessary to keep CFC’s offense from capitalizing on the strategy.
Keeping their composure and playing to their strengths of keeping the ball on the ground went a long way toward success as well, Cruz-Cruz said.
“They (CFC) fell into a panic mode and played more physical instead of playing the long ball,” Cruz-Cruz said. “I told my boys that’s not the way we play.”
On the offensive end, CenTex leaned heavily on Oscar Saveedra, Jose Alex Marin and Musungira Luvano to push the fast forward and counter CFC’s attacks.
The Lobos capitalized in the 8th minute when Marin blasted home a goal from point-blank range to give CenTex an early 1-0 advantage.
However, CFC steadily ramped up the pressure and attacked the Lobos’ midfield and defense. CenTex also had to withstand a more physical style of play CFC employed in the waning moments.
Five total yellow cards were issued in the contest.
“Guys in this age, they can be volatile and they lose their minds easily,” Cruz-Cruz said. “I’ve been trying to tell them to keep their cool and think about what they’re going to do, to make sure we don’t get yellow or red cards.”
CFC’s best opportunities on-goal came in the final 15-plus minutes of the contest. With time winding down, CFC pushed the pace and rattled off a handful of shots toward Landon, who kept them off the board.
Landon lauded his teammates, who played some of their best soccer so far this season.
“These are guys I haven’t known long, but they’re brothers. We go to battle together and we watch over each other,” Landon said. “I think we’re building that strong cohesion and bond.”
Continuing to progress and build that cohesion is often easier said than done. The different backgrounds, playing styles and even native tongues can create some barriers among the group.
Life off of the pitch can be a strain on the athletes. Landon said all players, who are not paid to play, balance a full- or part-time job along with traveling to Kyle twice per week for practices.
The love of the beautiful game is what brings them together.
“Some are Spanish speaking, some speak English and who knows what else in between,” Landon said. “Trying to find a common ground can be difficult, but we manage and tonight it really showed.”