On a picturesque spring evening in Hattiesburg, MS, the Stars produced a masterpiece for their 2022 home debut. The growing rivalry between these neighboring clubs has produced thrilling matches. The evening had special meaning for attackers Mason Walsh and Sheldon Green as they faced off for the first time against their former New Orleans Jester teammates.
It took all of 23 seconds for Walsh to make his mark. Taking a long pass from defender Hakeem Reid that bounced over the outstretched hands of the Jester goalkeeper, Walsh coolly continued his long run, chested down the cross, and scored within the first 30 seconds of play. Seventeen minutes later, Hakeem Reid added to his extraordinary offensive game as the defender raised up for a forceful header off a corner kick to put the Stars up 2-0 before most fans had a chance to settle in.
The match also featured a new-look midfield for the Stars featuring newcomers Sebastian Jorgge and Kyle Carr who combined with Clayton Adams to produce several offensive opportunities. By the end of the first half, Southern States had a 2-0 lead, the bulk of possession, and the run of play.
The Stars opened the second half with energy and intensity. Their third goal came in the 53rd minute when midfielder Clayton Adams penetrated the right side of the Jester defense and sent a lovely ball across the penalty box to striker Tom Shepherd who deftly handled the pass and laced in a shot from close range to make it 3-0. Only two minutes later, defender Hakeem Reid got his second assist when he crossed a ball to attacker John Lucas Rivera Murillo who scored from just outside the box in the 55th minute to give the Stars a commanding 4-0 lead.
The Jesters had impressive performances from brothers Maximiliano and Luciano Galizzi at forward and Floris Van Nijnanten in the midfield who created chances. Nevertheless, the Stars’ defense was impenetrable. Hakeem Reid, who had two assists and one goal, teamed with Sam Dadzie, Reece Harrison, Ryan Marcano, and goalkeeper Hector Grajeda to pitch a shutout. Stars coach Carl Reynolds described his team’s play as, “Controlled, professional, with a lot of quality in there as well.”
It was a special night for Mason Walsh facing his old teammates and scoring in record time, “I had mixed emotions at times, but I came here to win games, win a national championship, and that’s what I’m here to do. Absolutely delighted to score and always good to score that quickly.” When asked to describe the theme of training leading up to this result, Coach Reynolds described it as, “a bit more intense.” Walsh, however, painted a more descriptive picture stating that it was, “Grueling. It’s been extremely tough, but it was what we needed.”
Despite the discrepancy in describing the week of training, it was clear the players and coach were in sync. Reynolds remarked, “I thought everyone was absolutely tremendous.” Judging by the reaction of the home fans, it seemed they agreed with Coach Reynolds’ assessment.