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The Vaqueros prepare to take a free kick in front of Irving FC's goal in the second half of a 4-2 loss.

Many more fans turned out for last night’s Vaqueros game than usual, so much so that the team put out sets of bleachers for them, which they haven’t done before this summer. For a while there, it was looking like the local side would reward those fans with the first win of the season over Irving FC. Wasn’t to be, though.

Irving came out in something I haven’t seen in this NPSL season: jerseys with players’ names on the back. That makes it much easier to write up a game report. Their No. 9, Joe Conway, won a corner in the third minute, and headed the resulting kick just wide of Fort Worth’s post. A minute later, he was booked for diving in the penalty box. Always fun when the ref spots someone trying to con him and lays down the law. Conway would leave a mark on the scoresheet in minute 13, when he turned in a cross from the left.

Irving’s lead only lasted a few minutes, however, because Fort Worth’s No. 9 cut in from the right wing and fired a left-footed shot inside the far post. Shortly thereafter, No. 5 unleashed a shot that Irving goalkeeper Cody Wann could only smother, and No. 17 hopped on the loose ball in front of goal and made it 2-1. For the next 20 minutes or so, the visitors looked bereft of ideas and the Vaqueros had control.

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That fell apart in two minutes at the end of the first half, when Fort Worth’s No. 6 gave the ball straight to an Irving attacker, who passed to Conway for his second goal. The striker completed the hat trick when Wann’s punt from his own net found Justin Croke in a breakaway on goal. The pass pulled Croke wide of the net, but he squared the ball back to Conway, who celebrated by talking some smack back at the Panther City Hellfire fans who had been heckling him throughout the first half.

During the halftime break, the Vaqueros invited 11 fans onto the pitch to shoot at the crossbar (not the goal) for a prize. The adults shot from just outside the penalty area, while the kids set up at the penalty spot. One man managed to hit the bar and won season tickets for next year as a result.

Just after the break, Conway made it four by converting a cross from his right, and it seemed to sap whatever comeback spirit the Vaqueros might have had. They were reduced to taking hopeless shots from outside the box, most of which went over the bar. Croke and fellow central midfielders Carlos Zarate and Juan Ramirez ran Fort Worth’s midfield dizzy with their technical skills, and the game ended 4-2 in favor of Irving.

The Vaqueros end their season having lost all their games except for one, a “road” draw against this same Irving team that was played in Mansfield. I wish I had some sophisticated analysis to explain the home side’s dismal record, but all I can come up with is that the talent simply isn’t there. Were I in charge of personnel here, I’d be looking at upgrading every position on the pitch, to say nothing of having the coach come up with a game plan that can give the players direction. Coach Sergio Franklin just concluded his first year, so he has some leeway, but the squad looks in need of a script.

The fans, at least, showed up, and Vaqueros management would probably like nothing more than having that many people attend every home game. The difference in the atmosphere was palpable. For them, it’s time to rebuild for next spring. For me, I’ll be posting about other stuff on this blog. It’s been fun.

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