Luca de la Torre continued sharpening his claws for a likely run with the USMNT later this month, helping Heracles shut down Vitesse Arnhem on Sunday in a hard-fought scoreless draw.
Heracles Almelo 0 – 0 Vitesse Arnhem
With Heracles having as little threat to be dragged into a relegation battle as they do hope of reaching the spots for the playoff to compete for a European spot, perhaps their best motivation is to be a factor to opponents who are firmly entrenched in either of those categories.
On Sunday, they had a warmup for the latter, facing a superior Vitesse squad with European aspirations, and played the role perfectly, giving their opponents scant chance for a breakthrough.
For his part, de la Torre was a solid contributor in the central midfield, playing nearly te entire game before leaving as a garbage-time substitute in the 89th minute, completing 78% of his 23 attempted passes, hitting three of four long balls, and attempting one shot towards goal.
The American showed his crossing ability just past he half-hour mark, beating his man to the end-line and sending a ball to the far side of the area, where Mats Knoester headed straight into the sure hands of Vitesse keeper Markus Schubert.
Then just before the break, de la Torre did fine work to round his marking defender and walk the tightrope along the end-line before hitting a short pass back to the edge of the six-yard box, where Nikolai Laursen struck wide left.
The second half saw neither team able to stamp their authority on the proceedings, with the game ending in a scoreless draw that frustrated the visitors, more than it hurt the hosts.
With eight games left to play in the regular season, Heracles are likely best set to play a spoiler role for their upcoming opponents. They will play a team in the exact same position on Friday night, as they visit Heerenveen, who are equal on points but only trailing by goal differential.
Richard Ledezma was back in uniform and ready on the bench for PSV Eindhoven for their 1-0 road win over Utrecht on Sunday, however was not called into action.
Cole Bassett was left on Feyenoord Rotterdam’s bench on Sunday as they picked up a valuable 2-1 road win over PEC Zwolle to solidify their spot for European qualification.