By Pensacola FC
There were lots of goals Saturday night, as the Pensacola FC entertained the New Orleans Jesters at the Foley Sports Tourism Championship Stadium in Foley, Alabama. Pensacola entered this match coming off a win against Tallahassee in their last game, and the team was in fourth place. New Orleans were coming off a tough away loss to conference leaders Jacksonville Armada FC U-23 and were now third place in the table.
The Pelicans started off very strongly and were hoping to build on their last performance. They took possession of the ball very early on, and were trying to frustrate the Jesters by keeping it for long periods. Led by their captain Michael Lightbourne, Pensacola’s dominance within the first ten minutes would bear rewards. In the 11th minute a long ball from the feet of Hayden Anderson was played to Lightbourne on the left side of the field. Lightbourne was able to find James Morrissey who unleashed a shot just inside New Orleans’ 18-yard box. Unable to get much power on the shot, it was saved calmly by Jourdan Schumacher in the Jesters’ goal.
However, a minute later Pensacola opened the scoring, when Anderson floated a long ball into the path of Anthony Ciccarello. He was able to get in between two New Orleans defenders and hit a shot to the bottom left of Schumacher. That was his first goal of the season and gave Pensacola a one-goal lead. This gave the Pelicans the cushion, as they started growing in confidence.
Maxilmiliano Galizzi, who has been a threat for opposing defense all season, was trying to get the equalizer for the Jesters. His strength and movement started causing problems for the Pelicans’ back line. He just was not able to get off that final shot that could have given New Orleans the equalizer. He would continue to be a threat to Pensacola as the game went on. However, Pensacola struck again as soon as the Jesters were getting themselves settled into the game.
In the 19th minute, a well lofted pass from Anderson found Prince Owusu wide open just inside the Jesters’ half. With time and space, Owusu took off on a darting run towards the Jesters’ box. He was able to slip a pass to Lightbourne, who was able to guide the ball into the path of Morrissey. He then whipped a low cross into the box as the New Orleans defenders were retreating. Unfortunately, Harvey Read guided the ball into his own net. This gave Pensacola a two-goal cushion and brought them closer to three points.
New Orleans did not let this setback deter them, as Victor Domigues and Alexander Blanche were starting to get going for the Jesters. In the 38th minute Russell Brown picked up a loose ball inside the Pensacola box. He unleashed a shot that had Mark McMillan beaten. However, his shot crashed off the post and was cleared by the Pelicans. This should have given the Jesters the hope they were searching for.
The Pelicans would strike again just on the stroke of halftime. A corner kick whipped into the far post by Owusu was met by Morrissey on the volley, which was directed into the path of an alert Lightbourne. He was able to poke the ball past Schumacher to give his team a three-goal lead. This was also a team-leading sixth goal of the season. The midfielder has been a driving force in the Pelicans push for a playoff spot.
If New Orleans were to get back into the game, they knew that they would have to give a strong second-half performance. They surely came out with the hope of cutting the deficit, as they started seeing most of the ball. They were forcing Pensacola to give up possession, which allowed them to get in behind with Galizzi and Ricardo Gomez.
Pensacola was showing great defensive discipline as their back line lead by Retsin Kabambala, Brandon Medina, Keegan Lynch, and Anderson was sustaining the pressure from New Orleans and breaking up every attack.
Anderson played one of his lofted passes to Owusu in the 50th minute. He was able to get past three New Orleans defenders before being taken down in the box. That resulted in a penalty kick being awarded to the Pelicans. Lightbourne stepped up to take the spot kick, but it was beautifully saved by Schumacher. That was Lightbourne’s first penalty miss of the season after converting his previous three attempts.
New Orleans finally got on the score sheet as they were able to force the Pelicans into some easy giveaways. They capitalized on it by winning possession on Pensacola’s left side of the pitch. Thanks to some combination passing, the ball fell to the feet of Alexander Blanche who was able to hit a shot that got a slight deflection and into the back of the net for a 3-1 scoreline.
Pensacola head coach Dean Logan introduced Jarred Dass into the game, as they were starting to lose their offensive stronghold. Then Lightbourne found Isaac Kamara with time and space in the middle of the field. Kamara played a through ball to Dass who was able to guide a one-touch finish into the bottom right corner to give the Pelicans a 4-1 lead.
New Orleans was awarded a penalty in the 86th minute after Blanche was brought down in the box by Kabambala. Galizzi stepped up and fired the ball into the bottom left corner past McMillan, bringing the score to 4-2. The Pelicans would hang on to record their fifth win on the season, continuing their hopes of making it into the playoffs.
Logan shared his thoughts on his team’s performance tonight.
“I thought that we did very well tonight,” Logan said. “We knew how crucial a win would be, and deservedly the boys did everything to get the result.”
Dass discussed his goal and the win.
“I felt pretty good,” Dass said. “The team was doing really well, and I wanted to come in and keep that standard, which I felt I accomplished by scoring that goal. I think we are picking up momentum, and the win tonight was well-deserved.”
Ciccarello commented on his first goal for Pensacola FC and gave his overall thoughts on the game.
“It felt great,” Ciccarello said. “Early ball which allowed me to get the shot off and give us the lead. I thought we played really well. We were able to go at them early which allowed us to create chances that resulted in goals for us.”
Pensacola will travel to Mobile, Alabama on Wednesday, July 6 for a rescheduled game against AFC Mobile. That game will kickoff at 7:00 pm.
Photo Credit: Sophie Grace Thoner/Pensacola FC