RECAP: CASTL secures a 3-1 victory over Demize

by Peyton Rives

ST. LOUIS – Club Atletico Saint Louis (2-4-2) defeated Demize NPSL (2-2-4) by a score of 3-1 on Wednesday evening at SLUH Soccer Stadium, pushing the Bluebirds one spot closer to playoff contention.

“It was good to get back home, get a win, and get some momentum going.” Forward Eric Lopez said.

After an unsuccessful three-game road stretch that saw one draw and two losses, the Bluebirds finally broke through with their hard-fought victory, which was very important for the playoff race.

The match started quickly, and the Bluebirds had plenty of chances early. The first goal came in the 6th minute, as Lopez smashed the ball past the Demize keeper off of the pass from Adama Kante.

The goal marked Lopez’s third of the season, which is tied for the most on the team. He previously scored twice in the Bluebirds’ match against Ozark FC.

CASTL kept the pressure on for the remainder of the half, and Lenny Hein found the back of the net in the 21st minute to give the Bluebirds the 2-0 lead. His goal, which turned out to be the go-ahead score, was his first of the season.

“Kante got the ball wide,” Hein said. “I saw an opportunity to go behind the backline, and he slipped it in. I faked with my left foot, got it to my right foot curved it into the back corner.”

Going into the half with the 2-0 lead, the Bluebirds didn’t want to get too casual. They knew that they still had a challenge in front of them.

“You never can be comfortable in a game like this,” Hein said. “Yes, it was 2-0 for us, but they could get back into the game with a goal.”

Demize was not going down without a fight. Marcelo Hernandez scored in the 51st minute to keep Demize’s chances alive.

But they were unable to score for the rest of the game. In the 90th minute, a misfire by a Demize defender led to an own goal, putting the game out of reach.

After a few minutes of stoppage time, the Bluebirds had their second victory on the season. They are now 2-2-0 against Demize all-time.

Coming into the game, CASTL sat in sixth place in the Heartland Conference, but now with the victory they moved to fifth place with eight points, two points behind Little Rock and Demize and three points behind FC Wichita.

Little Rock and Demize will play each other in the final game of the regular season, meaning it is impossible for both teams to win out, aiding CASTL in the hunt for a playoff position.

Tulsa Athletic secured the first seed in the Heartland Conference playoffs, which begin on July 10. They are the only team to secure a playoff spot, as FC Wichita, Little Rock, Demize, CASTL and Ozark FC battle for the remaining three.

The Bluebirds have two more opportunities to gain points after their recent victory. First, CASTL travels to Ozark FC on Saturday, June 29 for their final road game of the regular season. The Bluebirds then return home for a rematch against Tulsa Athletic on July 6 to close out the regular season.

Both games will be crucial for the Bluebirds to gain points and secure a playoff berth, as the margin of error in the final two games gets tighter.

“We had to win this game,” Hein said. “We had to perform, and we did it. We kept the playoff hopes alive.”

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