By 3S Media
At the Oakes in Oak Grove, Mississippi, Southern States SC Stars entertained Naples United FC out of Florida. Naples are the Sunshine Conference Champions. Though ranked #3, they were coming off victories over #2 seed Miami Dutch Lions FC and #1 seed Miami United FC. Both wins were by impressive 4-1 score lines.
The Stars had finished as #3 seed in their conference but defeated #2 seed Pensacola FC on the road 2-1.
On the face of it the Stars appeared to have a tough task ahead against Naples, but in the sixth minute they were ahead. A quickly taken free kick by the intelligent Liam Bennett put the Stars into the Naples penalty area. The result was a pair of corner kicks to the Stars, the second of which was headed home by JR Cozine from Danny Reynolds.
In the 30th minute the Stars netted again, this time Cozine setting up Danny Reynolds whose bending left-footed strike flew past the Naples goalkeeper for the 2-0 lead.
The visitors were shaken but clawed their way back into the game when a headed flick on caught out the Stars defense and goalkeeper Grejeda who had come off his line, only for Jonathan Gonzalez to dart in and expertly chip it home.
At 2-1 Naples were back in the fight. But just seven minutes later from good work down the right, Cozine crossed for Julian Avila to run into the six-yard box and head home at the back post for a 3-1 lead.
On the stroke of halftime worse was to follow when a Naples defender was red carded for a foul on the Stars’ Tom Shepherd. From the free kick Danny Reynolds put in a near post cross for the previously fouled Shepherd to turn home from close range. Suddenly Naples were 4-1 down as the teams went into the halftime break.
The second half of the game is best forgotten as it became chippy and littered with fouls which eventually lead to a red card for Naples goal scorer Jonathan Gonzalez and Stars’ Danny Reynolds for retaliation. With the Stars down to ten men and Naples at nine with the game winding down Andre Deas went on a solo run before slotting home in the 84th minute to complete the score at 5-1 to the Stars.
The Stars will travel to Tulsa Athletic on Sunday in the South Region Final but without talisman Danny Reynolds, who will sit the game as a result of his red card.
Stars coach Carl Reynolds shared his thoughts on the win.
“Fantastic, elated,” Reynolds said. “The boys were brilliant tonight. We keep our best performances for the biggest games, which is a really good trait. We did really, really well to play the way we have been wanting to all season. We’re excited and ready to go to Tulsa now.”
Cozine, who scored and assisted, was thankful for the home support tonight.
“We couldn’t have asked for better (support), we showed up, we put our chances away, yeh, looking forward to the next game.”
Photo Credit: Brent Wallace Photography