The Oakes, Oak Grove, Miss. –
Port City Sounders edged past a spirited Southern States SC Stars at the Oakes in Hattiesburg (Miss.), Friday evening. The visitors from Gulfport completed the double over their in-state rivals having won the reverse fixture back in September.
For the Stars who have followed a promising start with three successive losses it was a performance that matched the Sounders in all, but goals scored, the one vital stat.
The game started with the Stars pushing forward brightly enough and Port City defending solidly. The Stars suffered a 4th-minute setback when overage player and holding midfielder Cruz Rangel was injured and had to leave the field to be replaced by Ethan Boles.
The closest either team came to an early scoring opportunity was Elean Fajardo’s crossfield ball, deep into the City penalty area, but Michael Colburn was unable to corral the ball in before it crossed the goal line.
As both teams tried to find a way through the game ebbed and flowed with the Stars taking more of the possession but the Sounders showing a little more quality in the final third.
Romar Smith and Michael Colburn were causing problems and Smith went close a couple of times and there was a shout for a Stars penalty-kick as Casey Heustess took a tumble in the penalty box. The ref ignored the pleas of the Stars players.
Port City had their half chances too and both sides exchanged corner-kicks and free-kicks before Daminick White was adjudged to have handled Kieran Robbins shot on the edge of the Stars penalty area. It looked a harsh call and the Stars players were certain the ball was not inside the box. Robbins it was who placed the ball on the spot and sent the visiting team into a 1-0 lead on 32 minutes.
The Stars went in search of a quick response, but the Sounders held their lead until the half-time break.
The second period started with the Stars on top and the visitors penned back into their own half. Romar Smith streaked onto a pass behind the Sounders defense but goalkeeper Thomas Wise was alert and rushed out to block the effort.
Southern States were looking as if the equalizer might be coming as they won corner-kicks and free-kicks and Fajardo wasted a chance by hesitating before shooting.
However, with Port City’s first real attack of the half Kengeye got free on the top of the box to hit a shot that Stars ‘keeper Diego Gutierrez got a hand to but could not keep out as it found its way under the crossbar.
2-0 was a harsh reality and the Stars were shaken for a while as Fajardo also picked up a yellow card. Despite this they found their way back into the game and Colburn had a chance before Romar Smith hit the crossbar from a free-kick.
The Stars continued to have more of the possession without turning it into clear chances against a stingy Sounders defense. At the other end Gutierrez deflected a strongly hit long shot behind and out of danger as the Sounders issued another warning of their goalscoring potential.
Finally, the break Southern States had been waiting for arrived. Fajardo worked his way into the City penalty area off the dribble and was tripped by a defender. The referee had no hesitation in awarding the penalty-kick and Fajardo picked himself up to drive the ball under the diving Wise in the Sounders goal, 2-1.
With 19 minutes plus added time to go the Stars were back in the game.
As time was counting down Bennett Gibson started to have a greater influence in the midfield winning tackles and driving his team forward. For the visitors, their defense still held firm as both teams again started to exchange fouls and free-kicks.
The Stars needed to sustain their attacks as Port City cleared and used up valuable time holding the ball in the Stars half. Clint Ryals replaced Casey Heustess and immediately got a shot of that was saved. Smith mishit a half-chance under pressure from a defender and with another substitution, Herrera replaced Noah Roblin for the Stars.
In the dying minutes of the game, Diminick White ended his night after being shown a red card and that was it for the Stars who could not find the vital second goal.
Stars drop to 2-1-3 on the back of a three-game losing skid. Port City head the pilot league on a 4-0-1 record. Stars host AFC Mobile next Friday, October 23rd at 7.00 pm. Port City are at Pensacola FC on Tuesday, October 20th, at 7.00 pm.