By AFC Mobile
AFC Mobile rebounded strongly from a tough road loss a week earlier, returning home to defeat Jacksonville Armada FC U-23 1-0 in NPSL action. The game-winner came in the 65th minute of the second half, when Thierry Zabarel headed the ball into the back of the net off an Azaleas corner kick. It was just the team’s second corner kick of the match, with the first just a minute earlier.
Jacksonville had the run of play for much of the first half, but Mobile’s back line did its job and kept the Armada from any serious chances. The Armada had a chance in the eighth minute, but defender Mario Gratzl defended it well and it went out for a corner. AFC Mobile had its own chance in the 15th minute. Striker Ronaldo Fortune stole the ball at midfield, sprinted down the right side of the field, but his cross was unable to find a teammate and drifted harmlessly out of bounds.
In the 19th minute, the Armada’s Jovoney Brown got through on goal but was fouled by Salia Carr, who picked up a yellow card. He was able to get his head on the ensuing free kick to maintain the scoreless tie.
Things got more interesting toward the end of the first half. In the 45th minute, striker Iba Ndaw had a great chance on goal, running straight down the center of the field. But his shot went straight into the hands of Armada goalkeeper Brandon Stam. Right after, the Armada stormed down the field and put the ball in the net for an apparent 1-0 lead. But the referee had blown his whistle and called off the goal, instead awarding a penalty kick to Jacksonville just before halftime.
Javoney Brown took the kick for the Armada, but in the moment of the match, the penalty was miraculously saved by AFC Mobile goalkeeper William Blake. After the game, Blake said that “it was all a guessing game, but I guessed correctly this time.”
AFC Mobile came out even more energized to start the second half. While Blake’s save almost certainly played a part, Blake also gave credit to the team’s mentality.
“We’ve come out slow in the past couple of second halves,” Blake explained. “So our goal this time was to come out, never switch off, keep the pressure on, and defend defend defend.”
Blake ended the night with a clean sheet, thanks to that save and a stellar performance from the Azaleas’ back line. He had 15 saves, two shy of the club record set by Domenic Nascimben in 2019.
In the second half, AFC Mobile got its first corner kick of the night in the 63rd minute. That corner went nowhere but led to another corner kick a minute later. And this time, Soane Deminguet’s kick found Theirry Zabarel for what turned out to be the game-winner.
AFC Mobile head coach Steve Wieczorek was proud of his team’s effort, especially after an uninspired 2-0 loss to Port City FC a week earlier.
“We had a really long and difficult week together, to be quite honest,” Wieczorek said. “But I know that this group is very talented, and I know that we have a lot more to give. And I told them that this is a ‘make or break’ performance for a lot of the players… and I think that kind of kick-started some of them. And then also, we knew how good they were. So we had a game plan, and we executed it very well.”
The win now leaves AFC Mobile in fourth place in the NPSL Gulf Coast Conference, with 10 points and a record of three wins, one draw, and three losses. The Azaleas are undefeated at home and will play three more matches at Archbishop Lipscomb Stadium before their next road trip. AFC Mobile’s next match is Saturday, June 12th at 7:00 pm CT when they host the New Orleans Jesters.
Jacksonville Armada FC U-23 drops to 5-0-1 with their first loss on the season. They remain in first place in the NPSL Gulf Coast Conference, and the Armada will host Southern States SC on Monday, June 7th.
Photo Credit: Seth Laubinger