By Kaylor Hodges/NPSL.com
Southern States SC were eliminated from the U.S. Open Cup Second Round by Birmingham Legion FC with a final score of 3-1.
The club from Hattiesburg, MS came into the match fiery and ready to compete, not allowing the pressure of playing a professional club even phase them.
Southern States SC Carl Reynolds was quoted as saying, “We’re going to show them respect by giving them our best game and playing them like we would anybody else.”
Early on, that is exactly what they did.
Even though Birmingham held on to nearly 70% of the ball, the Stars were holding firm and not allowing any real chances on goal. Both teams spent the first half hour sending jabs and warning shots, but neither team was willing to give in.
Going into halftime, Birmingham Legion may have been winning the possession battle, but the Stars were going into the locker room with momentum after stifling the Legion attack anytime they were in the box. On the opposite end, former NPSL standout Jake Rufe was holding down the defense for the Legion.
When asked about his time in the NPSL, Rufe said, “It’s all about staying consistent […] You rise a level, you grind. You rise another level, and you grind. It’s not easy, but it is all about staying consistent.”
Coming out for the second half, the Legion took control, with Prosper Kasim, Bruno Lapa, and Marlon Santos all getting on the scoresheet for Birmingham. Even though Birmingham was able to get three goals into the back of the net, the Stars never quit and showed heart from the first whistle to the last.
Stars goalkeeper Hector Grajeda made what might be the save of the Second Round in the 72nd minute, saving a shot from Legion’s Anderson Asiedu that was destined for the top left corner.
The match seemed to be coming to a close when Stars capitalized on a Legion mistake. Jean Lucas Rivera played the ball in to Mason Walsh who fired the ball past Trevor Spangenberg to get the Stars on the board, sending the hundreds of Southern States fans into an uproar at Alabama Soccer Stadium.
The match ended after three minutes of stoppage time.
When asked about the match, Reynolds said, “We would’ve liked a little bit more of the ball, but I love that they [Legion] fully respected us and played at near full strength. It’s obviously tough to deal with, but really nice to see and great for our guys to experience that.”
Reynolds was then asked about using this as a teaching opportunity, where he said, “People saw tonight that we have some players that can, eventually, go on to that next level. That’s exactly what competitions like this [US Open Cup] do, they showcase those guys. It helps to show our guys that next level…We’re all just trying to get better every single day.”
Photo Credit: Birmingham Legion FC