By 3S Media
Two newcomers to the National Premier Soccer League took to the field in Hattiesburg, Mississippi to start their inaugural seasons.
The visiting AFC Mobile team were not entirely new having played in a regional league in 2019 although redundant during the 2020 COVID-19 year.
The Southern States Soccer Club’s Stars were playing their first-ever game as a senior group. The club had participated in the fall 2020 and Spring 2021 U-19 Pilot, winning the latter.
An attendance of over 650 home fans cheered on the local team, including about a 50 strong group of fans calling themselves the Supernovas. They cheered enthusiastically throughout from their special fan zone. The visitors were not without support, as they brought flags and noise of their own.
The first half of the game was goalless. The Stars dominated possession and maintained the territorial advantage, but the Mobile defense was equal to the task of protecting their goalkeeper.
The Stars had some long-range efforts high and wide and some opportunities from dead balls that threatened but nothing clear cut. The closest to a goal was an effort from Stars’ Andre Deas ruled out for offside.
The second half started with the Stars on the front foot and in the 53rd minute they got the goal they deserved. Liam Bennett and Deas were starting to control the midfield. It was Deas who sent in a left-wing cross that was met by Julian Avila Good on the edge of the penalty box who smashed it home, low and hard past goalkeeper Barou Ndaw in the Mobile goal.
The home crowd was ecstatic and roared their approval as the Stars netted that historic first goal. Avila Good’s name was now written into the annals of Southern States Soccer. 10 minutes later they would have more to cheer.
After breaking up a rare Mobile attacking flurry, Attila Sepkin found himself in space on the right side. He was able to pick out the run of Harry Baggaley who ghosted into the box and touched the ball gently past Ndaw, out of the shot-stopper’s reach. Stars were now in front 2-0.
There was no way back for the Mobile team as the Stars took an even firmer hold on the game. The home side’s tails were up and Mobile seemed to be tiring as the game progressed.
The Stars put an exclamation mark on the score line with a third goal in the 82nd minute. Danny Reynolds’ impressive run down the left found him with an opportunity to strike from 20 yards out to the left of goal. His sweetly struck drive cannoned of Ndaw’s far post as he dived in vain. The goal sealed the win and reflected the extent of the home team’s superiority on the night.
A number of substitutions in the final minutes slowed the game as the Stars saw out the shutout to add to the three goals and three points on the evening.
Southern States SC head coach Carl Reynolds was happy with his team’s performance.
“We had to be patient,” Carl Reynolds said. “Mobile made us work for it. They sat real deep, compressed the lines which meant it made it a little difficult but we spoke at halftime about being patient and moving the ball, moving them about a bit and our patience paid off. Julian (Avilla Good) scored his goal. He has a lot of quality and it opened the game up for us. Really, really good result and a culmination of a long, long week of preparation. Lot of people put a lot of work in behind the scenes and their work doesn’t go unnoticed.”
Carl Reynolds also commented on the evening as a whole with the Stars also revealing their home field, a custom designed and built mini-stadium.
“Everyone was excited about the occasion,” Carl Reynolds said. “The excitement was almost unbearable before the start of the game, especially after the lost year with COVID restrictions. It was a beautiful occasion; the fans were absolutely phenomenal. We didn’t realize there was such an organized group of supporters. These Supernovas were a part of the win tonight. We appreciate all their support.”
Julian Avila Good was excited with the win and his historic goal.
“Great feeling, to score the first-ever goal, sense of pride, for this team’s history, very prideful moment.”
AFC head coach Steve Wieczorek was philosophical about his team’s defeat.
“Obviously coming into the game, you knew it was going to be a tough game,” Wieczorek said. “Our preparation for the match was, we knew they were going to be well-organized, we knew they were going to be creative and expressive and well-schooled on how they rotated, the way they moved the ball, so we knew we needed to concede possession, which we did. We hoped we would be able to hit them on the counterattack, which we tried but, in the end, the better team ultimately won out. For us that was our first game together, so I look at playing our first match, kind of a friendly. Just trying to know ourselves, against maybe, what could be the best team in the league, and I think that was the challenge. When we play them next time around, we’ll see if we can improve.”
Photo Credit: 3S Media