By 3Ssoccer Media
College graduation week, Mother’s Day weekend, and lightning delays couldn’t keep the resilient and loyal Southern States fans away. The Oakes Training Facility was home to the highly anticipated home season opener for the Stars – against an always difficult and spirited New Orleans Jesters side.
The match started fast and fiercely as both teams were competing to take away three points. Matches between the Stars and the Jesters are always spirited as the two rivals look to protect their pride. The weather began to take a turn for the worst as ominous looking clouds took over. Nevertheless, the Jesters looked to strike first and take advantage. In the 4th minute, off a Sebastian Jorgge turnover deep in midfield, came an excellent scoring opportunity for the Jesters. Erik Gunera looked to capitalize off the mistake by driving towards goal and ultimately settling for a shot from distance. Stars keeper Gabriel Perrotta was able to make a comfortable save in the end.
The Stars began to build in confidence after ceding the earlier minutes of the match to the Jesters. As the Stars settled into the game, midfielder Mason Walsh, drove through the middle third on a powerful run in the 6th minute. Walsh was taken down by a strong tackle by Ricardo Gomez in the final third – earning Gomez the match’s first yellow card. Gomez’s tackle setting the tune early in the match for the Jesters.
The Jesters began to look to impose their style of play on the Stars and had success. The Jesters pressed high making it difficult for the Stars early on. When the Jesters did recover the ball, they looked to exploit the Stars in behind and pick up second balls in dangerous areas. In the 9th minute, the Jesters had an excellent chance from a ball in behind, but were whistled for offside. In the 11th minute, Jesters midfielder Rolando Sanchez showed an excellent bit of skill to skip past Stars defender Heath Flathau. Sanchez was able to whip an early cross into the box forcing Stars keeper Perrotta into action.
Midway through the first half of play the Stars looked to gain back control of the match. The Stars were able to find pockets of space in the middle third of the field breaking the Jester’s press at times. This began to open more space and help the Stars dominate possession and pace of play. Walsh was able to get turned on the ball in the middle third and find midfielder Perez in open space. Perez was then able to spray an excellent ball in behind to defender Harrison. Harrison got on the end of it and whipped a low driven ball into the head of Hoyos Lopez. The Jesters keeper making a comfortable save in the end.
This was a game of ups and downs. Both teams battling for control and three points that could provide to be pivotal in league standings. There was a steady number of stoppages throughout the game as the referee looked to keep both rival teams in check. The unsteady flow of this game was further disrupted when a lightning delay was called in the 32nd minute. Once the weather was cleared and the referees decided it was safe to continue, the teams made their way back onto the field. It was an uneventful end to the half for both sides as halftime – another stoppage came quickly.
Stars head coach Carl Reynolds and Jesters head coach Kenny Farrell were productive with their players during the halftime break as the second half was electric to start. Both coaches playing the chess match trying to get the best tactical advantage to give their side the opportunity to win. The Jesters looked dangerous to begin the half with a long ball played into striker Sheldon Green. Stars defender Josh Davies was able to defend Green successfully on the early chance. In the 52nd minute the Stars were able to implement their press to create an excellent goal scoring opportunity. The ball ended on the feet of Lopez, the exact person they’d want in this position. Lopez was inches away from giving the Stars the lead with his opportunity rattling off the crossbar – leaving hundreds of loyal Star fans in disbelief.
The rivalry and fierce competitiveness began to show between the two sides as they each looked to get an advantage. In the 55th minute Jesters defender Nathan Aupied received a yellow card for a tackle on Stars midfielder Harry Gardner. This set the tone early in the second half, showing the Jesters were not backing down. Shortly after Harrison was able to whip an unbelievable ball into Walsh who could not capitalize on the opportunity. The Jesters defense held strong and had a wonderful recovery denying the Stars once again.
The Stars were able to finally break through the Jesters’ stout defense on a corner kick. A lofted ball was sent to the back post and headed back across the face of the goal. Josh Davies redirected the ball into the back of the net for the goal. After a long-awaited breakthrough, the Stars were able to take the lead and looked to further impose their control and dominance on the game. The Jesters held firm and created chances of their own. However, the Stars found another breakthrough in the 72nd minute. Walsh was on the receiving end of an excellent ball from Jorgge. Walsh calmly dribbled around the keeper to score against his former club.
Going down 2-0 the Jesters stayed resilient and dangerous as ever. They looked to create multiple chances and found a breakthrough of their own in the 80th minute. Clayton Adams conceded a penalty to Green who opted to take the penalty kick he had earned. He stepped up and delivered in a big way. A confident and professionally taken penalty kick was placed expertly in the corner of the goal giving the keeper very little chance. The game was now back on.
The Jesters remained dangerous and pushed for a late game equalizer. In the 92nd minute the Jesters had earned a corner kick. They committed everyone forward, including the goalkeeper. The Stars defense held strong and turned away the growing onslaught of pressure being delivered by the Jesters. In the dying minutes of the game the Stars caught the Jesters out of position with an electric counterattack. Perez found Kai Phillip in acres of space as he attacked the goalkeeper. The pressure was on with 1v1 situation – striker vs keeper. Phillip was able to remain composed and slotted the ball past the keeper to put the Stars up 3-1.
The match ended shortly after, but it was an excellent display of soccer as the two rivals competed fiercely until the final whistle. In an early season matchup both teams will be encouraged by what they saw. The Stars move to four points on the season through two matches. The Jesters will look to bounce back for their second game of the season.
Photo Credit: Shedaina Dieuveille