SOUTHEAST CONFERENCE ACTION HEATS UP
Now that the calendar has turned to June, we start to see how the Southeast Conference of the National Premier Soccer League is starting to unfold.
The New Orleans Jesters (1-1-1) started the weekend off with a trip to Georgia, as they took on the Atlanta Silverbacks Reserves (2-1-1) after both teams had different levels of success last week as the Jesters beat Chattanooga FC at home and the Silverbacks fell to Nashville FC 3-1.
New Orleans thought they had continued their winning ways as Sam Hurrell hurdled the Jesters into the lead early just 12 minutes into the match. But, the Silverbacks made their push in the scorching 95 degree afternoon sun.
With just seven minutes until the half, Palamin Fonfana notched a pretty little goal, his second of the year and his first since their first week win, and Atlanta drew even going into the half. After the half, Atlanta poured on the pressure and Halib Habtom, another goal scorer from Week One, drilled the ball into the upper corner and gave the Silverbacks the advantage with 60 plus minutes played.
Kingsley Morgan would seal the win as his perfectly placed shot into the lower corner in the 70th minute completed the 3-1 Atlanta win, their first in three weeks.
Both clubs host Friday night (June 6) matches, as the Georgia Revolution are in New Orleans and the Knoxville Force are visiting Atlanta. The Jesters will host Nashville the next night (June 7th) as well.
The most exciting match of the night was held in Murfeesboro, TN, as Rocket City United (2-1-1) traveled to take on top of the table Nashville FC (3-0-2). Both clubs were coming off big wins at home, so something had to give.
Now this match had it all, as three red cards were produced, including one in extra time that prevented Nashville the win. United silenced and shocked the crowd minutes before the half, as Ryo Suzuki toe-tapped a ball in the box through the keeper’s legs and Rocket City was riding high. Rocket City is the only club in the top four of the Southeast Conference not to have a multiple goal scorer, they now have four different goal scorers.
Rocket City was reduced to 10 men and what looked to be a high elbow saw a straight red. Luckily for United, Nashville were handed a straight red, too, so the final 30 minutes were played with less that 22 on the field. That emotion seemed to wake up Nashville, as Elliot Goodwin scored his first of the year in the 75th minute and Nashville were looking to press for the game-winner.
Nashville pushed, but plenty of their close shots were off target and really should have won it, but United will be more than happy with the win. At the 90 minute mark, Nashville had seemed to get the winner when a shot made its way into the net, but a United defender intentionally handled the ball and was immediately red carded.
On the ensuing penalty, O’Conner ‘rocketed’ the shot well over and RCU collected their breaths and remained unbeaten in three and Nashville continue to hold top spot on the table with four wins out of five.
Rocket City will begin a stretch of three home matches in seven days beginning with Chattanooga FC on Saturday night (June 7).
As for Chattanooga FC (3-1-1), they rolled into Tennessee where the Knoxville Force (0-4-1) were waiting. Chattanooga were looking for a bit of revenge, as they were sent out of the U.S. Open Cup midweek to the Atlanta Silverbacks (parent club of the NPSL Atlanta Siverbacks Reserves).
But it was Chattanooga that came out with the goal party, as CFC punched four past Knoxville, with a 4-0 win on Saturday night. It took 54 minutes, but the visitors got on the board with Luke Winter’s shot beat the charging keeper.
Just two minutes later, John Carrier, who scored the only goal in the match the week before, slotted home the second of the match and his second of the year. Luis Trude completed the three goals in five minutes as his chip crossed the line and gave the game to CFC.
Chrispin Ochieng hit number four in the 68th minute as CFC collected their second win in a row since losing in New Orleans.
NPSL rookies Nashville FC still hold on to top spot with eleven points with their draw, but Chattanooga gets within a point, with both clubs playing five matches. The Atlanta Silverbacks Reserves and Rocket City United are tied on points with seven as each club has played four. New Orleans holds the fifth spot and Knoxville are still holding with a point five matches in.