By 3Ssoccer Media
The Southern States Soccer Stars tried in vain to defend their home field against the Florida Roots. In the second game of the NPSL U-19 Competition, the Roots defeated the Stars 2-1 on their home field in Panama City. The Stars had revenge on their minds but to no avail as “Gabo” had other plans. With piercing offensive runs, opportunistic defense, and devastating goals, Gabriel “Gabo” Vidal extinguished any hope the Stars had for tying the season series.
Despite the long drive to The Oakes in Hattiesburg, the visitors from Panama City arrived early and played with energy from the opening kick. It didn’t take long for Vidal to announce his presence. He took advantage of an early one-on-one matchup to beat the Stars defense and lace home a deft left-footed shot for the first goal only three minutes into the match. He earned his brace just twelve minutes later, creating another one-on-one opportunity dribbling past the last defender and the goalkeeper. Vidal created a third dangerous opportunity six minutes later by earning a free kick just outside the Stars box. That attempt didn’t result in a goal, but by the 21st minute, Gabriel Vidal was firmly established as a lethal force.
The Stars eventually settled down and achieved long runs of possession and started creating chances of their own. Eventually, that led to a goal by the Stars’ Liam Tuang off a header assisted by Romar Smith to make the score 2-1 going into halftime.
Any momentum created by the late first-half goal was squelched in the 54th minute when Andrew Beasley hit a banger off his left foot to put the Roots firmly back in control. The Stars got a boost of momentum when Noah Fayard returned from injury and entered his first game of the season in the 60th minute. Genesis Martin and Jair Hernandez also contributed energy and strong play off the bench. But tonight was all about the Florida Roots and Gabriel Vidal. In the 84th minute, Vidal got his hat trick after opportunistically dispossessing the Stars defense and calmly placing the ball just inside the far post.
Roots head coach Jonathan Hammond was all smiles after the game.
“Ever so proud,” Hammond stated. “Ever so proud. We had some young players step up from the ’05 team and I thought they did incredibly well. The energy levels, the physicality, I was really impressed by that.”
Regarding his star striker, Hammond stated, “Special mention to Gabo who was incredible upfront. He allowed us to hold our shape really well and be a threat on the counter-attack.”
Overall, Hammond and the Florida Roots had much to show for their trip to Hattiesburg. They got valuable playing time for their young players. They showcased a budding star in striker Gabriel Vidal, and they won the season series against the defending champion Southern States Stars. The Stars, on the other hand, have little time to sulk as they prepare to host Tallahassee Soccer Club at The Oakes on Sunday.
Photo Credit: Sophie Bell