By Southern States SC
Close rivals Southern States SC and AFC Mobile faced each other in Oak Grove, Mississippi in Gulf Coast Conference play on Wednesday evening.
The teams met in Mobile, Alabama just 10 days ago with the Stars coming from behind to take the three points back to Mississippi with a 2-1 win.
The game opened in light rain which continued for most of the game, making the grass wet on top with the ball skipping on the surface even though conditions underfoot were near perfect.
Both teams handled the situation well and proceeded to play progressive soccer. During the first 20 minutes the Stars had the better of possession as the Azaleas found it difficult to pass through the center of the Stars’ defensive lines.
Both teams pressed high and hard, limiting counter-attack opportunities though one Mobile player did pick up a yellow card for stopping a Stars breakaway with the tug of a jersey.
The Stars produced a few long-range efforts that troubled Mobile goalkeeper William Blake and eventually one of those efforts was mishandled by Blake. Diving to his left to make a good save, the keeper pushed the ball into the center of the goal for a completely free Clayton Adams to shoot high into the open net. This would give the Stars the lead. The half ended with little incident as both the Stars and Azaleas toiled to create scoring chances.
The Stars started the second half on the front foot with several attacking excursions into Mobile territory coming up short. The visitors were struggling to impress in the opening minutes.
In the 54th minute, Stars head coach Carl Reynolds was ejected from the game on a second yellow card.
Mobile leveled the score at 1-1 within three minutes of the ejection. The Stars failed to cut out a right-wing cross, and Christopher Salamatou rose to head home at the far post.
Whether the ejection of Reynolds played any part in the build-up or a momentum switch for the goal is unclear but certainly the Stars had a problem to navigate. Seemingly in control they were now to be tested further.
The temperature of the game certainly rose as the Azaleas gained confidence and the crowd started to engage. Four minutes later, in almost identical fashion to the Mobile goal, Sheldon Green headed home Manu Ferriol’s assist to restore his team’s lead at 2-1. In the 67th minute the visitors found themselves behind 3-1 as a high ball from the left, off Green, evaded Blake and dropped behind him into the net.
It was a massive blow for the Mobile team who seemed to have the wind knocked out of them by the passage of those amazing 10 minutes.
The Stars never lost control of the game after that and continued to blunt the Mobile attacks while creating more chances of their own. It was inevitable that there would be several substitutions which only proceeded to break up the continuity of the game.
However, the Stars managed to help themselves to one more goal and put an exclamation point on the score when Green swept the ball home in the 82nd minute. For Green it was a second-half hat trick.
Green responded to his feat after the game by talking about his team and not himself.
“Class,” Green said. “Did well coming back, good reaction after they scored to get the three goals. The boys were class. Great reaction. Rest up now and get prepared for the next game and hopefully get another three points. We’ll do our best to do that.”
Assistant coach Romar Smith explained how the Stars coped on the sideline.
“All of the assistants had to step up and finish the game out, so that’s what we did and got the result in the end,” Smith said. “We all knew what we had to do; nothing changed.”
Southern States SC improved to 8-2-0 on a six-game winning streak while AFC Mobile dropped to 3-5-1. The Stars secured their grip on second place in the conference but need help if they are to overcome leaders Jacksonville Armada FC U-23. New Orleans, Pensacola FC, Mobile, and the Florida Roots are now competing for the two other playoff spots.
Photo Credit: Alex Blakeney/Southern States SC