By Ivor Castle/Southern States SC
The Southern States SC Stars took revenge on Pensacola FC with a 4-0 win at the Oakes Training Center in Oak Grove, Mississippi on Thursday night. This was a return matchup to Pensacola’s home game with the Stars last Saturday, a game the Pelicans won by 3-1.
The Stars took a 3-0 halftime lead on goals from Jean Lucas Rivera, Mason Walsh, and Tom Shepherd. The teams competed evenly over the opening 15 minutes before the home team began to take control. There was to be no early goals as in last weekend’s encounter when both teams scored inside of five minutes. The Stars did take the lead in the 20th minute when Pensacola goalkeeper Mark McMillan failed to deal with a shot from Walsh, and Rivera was on hand to smash home the rebound.
The Stars were pressing high and creating turnovers which led to opportunities while the visitors’ pressing had little effect on a Stars team determined not to make the same errors as in the previous matchup.
That pressure paid off with interest when Walsh stole the ball from an opposing defender in the penalty box and calmly swept home a second goal to cement the Stars’ lead at 2-0. Later Shepherd corralled a loose ball some 12 yards out and made it 3-0 with a goal minutes before the interval.
The second half was an uphill battle for the Pensacola team as the Stars continued to press. The visitors pushed their defensive line higher and tried to press harder in the final third in an effort to produce some opportunities, but Hector Grajeda in the Stars goal was rarely troubled.
As the game progressed the Stars created more and more chances and the Pelicans defended stoutly with players making several last-gasp defensive blocks and the goalkeeper making instinctive saves from close range. The Stars had numerous corner kicks that came to nothing despite the danger they produced.
As the game entered its final quarter, a raft of substitutions by both sides broke up the play and the rhythm of the game. The contest also got chippy with a number of fouls and yellow cards as the game came to a close.
However, there was still time for one more goal and a red card. Substitute Manuel ‘Manu’ Ferriol bent home a wickedly struck free kick from the right side of McMillan’s goal, evading the wall and McMillan to make it a 4-0 lead for Southern States. Just before the final whistle Pensacola’s Chase Mills received a red card for a tackle on Stars forward JR Cozine.
In the end, what looked a difficult match before the final whistle, became an easier one the longer the game progressed. Southern States earned a valuable three points while also proving their ability to bounce back from defeat.
It was a special night for the Stars and their supporters.
“We knew they were going to come out like they did last game and cause us trouble, so we needed to minimize that by showing what we can do on and off the ball,” Southern States SC midfielder Kyle Carr said. “ It was a great team performance.”
Photo Credit: Jesse Johnson/Southern States SC