By: Jordan Spratt
Shreveport, LA – NPSL seasons move quickly and wait for no one to get in their form- meaning getting to where you want
to be early is paramount. In just 9 days the Rafters have spent roughly 40 hours on the road and played
3 highly competitive games- 2 of which were conference opponents. While the boys have shown
glimpses of the dominant team they can be with two cup wins, it can’t make up for the points they’ve
failed to capture for the conference. Up next would be the Fort Worth Vaqueros. Last year the Rafters
beat the Vaqueros and tied them away taking 4 points out of 6, only this year’s team out of Fort Worth
would prove to be no easy task. For FW’s first conference game they thumped perennial powerhouse,
Dutch Lions with a score of 3-0. This would be all the more reason to get the measuring sticks out for
who’s who in the conference clash between both blue and gold clubs.
With Coach Palmer taking care of coaching obligations, Coach Barker again would be at the helm of the
Rafters tactics. Coach Barker arranged his men in their recently common 4-1-3-2. Many changes would
come from last game in an effort to shake things up and put on fresh legs. Walcott and Rader Massey
would once again man the fullback positions while John Plumbar(CDM) and Riley Unger joined Jha’lon
Johnson and Pollifrone in midfield. Spearing the attack was Jackson Darnell and Leandro Cid Fernandez.
The Rafters kept the shape better than any game in my opinion all season. On attack, the opposite-ofthe-
ball fullback would drop off while the other provided attack. The whole group of midfielders besides
Plumbar would move up as well. Of the midfielders, Unger seemed to reap the most benefit from this
system, as he was able to have a couple key passes that open up fullback Walcott and Darnell down the
Without the ball the Rafters in perfect synchronization, fell into a 4-1-4-1 with Darnell dropping back,
assuming the right-wing position. On more than one occasion the Rafters would have 10 men inside
their own half. This worked out well for counters as a ball won was usually played back to one of four
defenders while the midfield and forward(s) would stretch the field waiting for a well weighted through
ball, if the option of picking a man out over the top was not available.
In the 2nd minute, down the left side Walcott pushed with the ball 40 yards away from goal to lay a pass
off to Unger. Unger would lift his head to find Pollifrone making a back-side run. The aerial cross would
just miss the head of Pollifrone for the first opportunity of the game. About 15 minutes would go by
without a shot on goal for either side while chances did present themselves.
In the 20th minute, Rafters would have a legitimate grievance against the referee who had poor
positioning to see a blatant handball in the box from an attempted cross. It was all the more
unfortunate of a missed call as 2 minutes later the Vaqueros would open the scoring. In a quick counter,
a ball was played in behind the left side of the defense. Receiving the ball was winger Zach Starvou who
hit a cross back-side to trailing midfielder, Marco Ortiz. Ortiz would hit the ball back across goal for a
side netting finish putting the Vaqueros up 0-1.
In an effort to prevent the previous goal from happening again, in the 31st minute, Coach Barker made a
tactical substitution for Walcott(LB) for the more defensive minded Myron Duffy.
“The difference between Myron and Che’s style of play and what they were doing within their attack- I
felt like Myron was a little better suited for it. Myron sits back a little bit more on that back-line,
whereas Che kind of presses up and they were really attacking the ball over his head. Putting Myron in, I
think kind of cut off that option for ‘em so when they got their head up to look for it, it wasn’t thereand
forced them to play the ball inside,” said Coach Barker.
Despite giving up the goal, the Rafters accomplished tactically what they’d hoped for, by staying true to
the formation and countering when able. 0-1 with 45 minutes played.
The Rafters lineup would see no changes in the second half, however, rather than allowing the game to
come to them they were much more aggressive in an effort to get a goal back.
Roughly 10 minutes after the half, the Vaqueros would double their lead. A ball played in from the right
side of the Rafters defense would find Aaron Myer through-to the 18’ yard box who would play in
previous goal scorer Marco Ortiz. Ortiz would find the back of the net once again placing his shot near
post. 0-2 Vaqueros.
Between the 60th and 65th minute, Coach Barker would make a series of substitutions. Most notably,
Lucas Pereira, who came on for Jackson Darnell- who saw many minutes in the 3 game away tour. Cid
Fernandez moved to the center attack mid role while Pereira would play the lone forward. The
substitution paid off for the Rafters almost immediately. In the 63rd minute, Johnson was able to beat
two men going forward in the center of the pitch. Tapering his run off to the right, Pereira, received the
ball from Johnson about 10 yards from goal. Popping the ball up- on a half volley, Pereira chipped
keeper Ammon Borja for a beautiful goal, bringing the Rafters back 1-2.
Whether it was the early second half goal of the Vaqueros or Pereira’s delightful chip, the men played
much better and looked like the team Graf field is so used to seeing. With more shots on goal and more
corner attempts, it was clear of the team’s second half revival. However, time would run out before a
point could be salvaged. As the score would end 1-2 Fort Worth Vaqueros.
“Little bit of a tale of two halves. The difference in adjustments that we made in the second half I think
really showed. Just a couple simple fixes that we needed to do. The boys came out in the second half
and executed well and gave us a lot of opportunities, unfortunately we just couldn’t capitalize on it,”
said Coach Barker.
Even with the loss, the performance was much more encouraging than the last game. The Vaqueros
seem to be much more of a top team in the conference this season, with not allowing a goal until they
traveled to Shreveport and by all metrics of the second half, the Rafters looked to be the better team.
Talking with members of the team they seemed optimistic in knowing they can play better than results
have shown. With 7 games left, 3 of which being conference rematches, the Rafters have plenty of time
to take points and get into the top 2 of the Lone Star conference.
“When you play like that with heart and passion, I can’t be upset with you. I don’t really care what the
score says at the end of the day if they come out here and do their best, then I can’t fault em for that.
There were questionable calls from the refs as usual. Fort Worth Vaqueros did their work this summer
and came back this season with a strong team. We’re one of the only teams to score on them and I think
that just shows you what our boys can do…Coach Barker had the task of turning their chin around after
that Midland game. He had two days to do it and he did his job. As I could tell watching ‘em today, they
were playing a lot better than they did in Midland and they were playing with their heart,” said Cole.
The men will have a much-deserved break as their next game is against Tyler FC June 3rd. Having already bested the Kings in preseason, it will be a welcomed opportunity to get the first points of the season.
Let’s make Louisiana-Texas border matchup a home game by making the short-day trip to support the
men in Blue and Gold.
By: Jordan Spratt