Welcome Back, Soccer: Sidekicks defeat Heat, 6-2, in Metroplex return
Emotions reigned supreme Saturday night at the Allen Event Center.
And not just because the Dallas Sidekicks defeated the Harrisburg Heat, 6-2.
The ensuing celebration appeared to be more about the eight years it took to get the Sidekicks back on the field than the season-opening win Dallas picked up.
"To have indoor soccer back in Dallas ... I can't really even explain the emotion," said Patrick Shamu, Sidekicks forward. "I just ... I love it here and I'm so glad to be back."
Those sentiments were shared by Tatu, who is the head coach of the newly-reformed Sidekicks organization after playing on the 1986-87 MISL, 1993 CISL, 1998 WISL and 2001 WISL Champion squads and coaching the latter two.
"This is one of the few times in my career that I was nervous; I mean, I had butterflies in my stomach driving up to the building," he said. "We worked so hard to get back to this point and ... it feels so great ... this is perfect."
Well, maybe not perfect.
"I'm so used to Reunion Arena that when we went back to the locker room (at the AEC), I didn't know which way to go," Tatu said. "So maybe this place doesn't feel like home just yet, but we'll get there. This is a great venue and I hope we can play another 18 years at this place."
Regardless of what the future holds, Night 1 of the reboot was a success.
In addition to the victory, Dallas drew a near-sellout crowd of 5,909 fans to the AEC and a pre-match congratulatory video from Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki.
"That's Dirk for you," Tatu said. "He is just an all-around class act."
Much like the Sidekicks, who were sporting the more contemporary purple jerseys as opposed to the old-school green, the AEC drew strong reviews.
"This place is great," Shamu said. "Not too big, not too small."
"The people are so close to you," added Sagu, Sidekicks goalkeeper, "which I think helps you feel that energy even more."
There was plenty of energy Saturday night despite a rough first quarter. Harrisburg outshot Dallas, 15-4, but the Sidekicks were no worse for wear with neither team scoring. The Heat were not so fortunate in the second as the home team got a pair of goals from Kiley Couch and another from Carlos Videla to fire up the familiar sound of, "I'm so excited." Giving a nod to previous incarnations of the team was a focus of the night with "Cotton-Eyed Joe" playing during breaks and "Born to be Wild" blared through the speakers following the 6-2 Dallas victory.
The Sidekicks' 3-0 halftime lead was extended to 4-0 less than 75 seconds into the third quarter as passes from Nick Stavrou and Renato Pereira made their way to a wide-open Shamu, who headed it in for a power-play goal. The four straight goals were a product of a second and third quarter where Dallas outshot Harrisburg, 25-11.
Shamu is one of several current players who were on previous Sidekicks' rosters.
"We were eager to come back," he said, "and I think we have a good combination of young and old that is really going to work."
That is precisely Tatu's line of thinking.
"Seeing what our older players could do didn't surprise me at all," he said. "That's why we brought them in, because we knew what they were capable of."
Perhaps none of the older players showed off more than Sagu. The only goals allowed by the 39-year-old keeper, both scored by Tom Mellor, came on a counterattack and power play.
"You can't sleep out there, even for one second, because if you do they will get an easy goal on you," Sagu said. "And we didn't want that because we have been working hard every day, every week, to show how good we are."
That showed once more in the fourth quarter as goals by Franck Mbemba, on an assist from Plano West alum Jarod Stigall, and Pereira closed out the 6-2 victory.
"Of course you want to put the ball a little deeper and we want to finish a little better, but I think we did a lot of good things tonight," Tatu said. "We wanted to perform well for the fans and I think we did."
But, as several players mentioned, one game will not make the Sidekicks' season or reboot of the franchise a success.
"We knew we were going to have an advantage with this being the first game and us being at home," Sagu said, "but now the key is we've got to keep it going."
Dallas is off until Nov. 25 when it travels to face the Rio Grande Valley Flash. The Flash then comes to the AEC at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 30.