The Oakes, Oak Grove, Miss. –

Forward Romar Smith

The New Orleans Jesters opened their U19 pilot season at Southern States SC in Mississippi with a hard fought 1-1 tie. The Jesters defended grimly to keep the Stars at bay and earn themselves a split of the honors.

For the Stars it was a disappointing result considering the pressure they subjected the visitors to especially in the second half.

Having made short work of Pensacola FC by 3-0 the previous week, the Stars were rocked on their heels inside 5 minutes as Mason Morise raced clear to score. Cruz Rangel gave away possession and Morise’s snappy shot off the break cannoned of a post and in behind Stars ‘keeper Guttierrez into the opposite corner of the net.

If there was any complacency due to last week’s victory it was soon over. A hectic passage of play followed as the Stars inevitably started to force the Jesters back looking for a quick response.

The Stars were unable to find clear cut openings and nearly fell further behind when this time, Roblin, dribbling out of the back turned the ball over only for Kelton Keene to get in a superb block tackle to squash the danger.

Entering the midpoint of the first half, the Jesters were feeding off scraps as the Stars maintained their pressure and the possession. A promising Stars move down the left ended with Mendez running offside as Roblin threaded a subtle pass between two defenders.

Next a dangerous Mendez cross was scrambled clear at one end and at the other Guttierrez pulled of a super save as Woodward for the Jesters, curled a free-kick underneath the angle of crossbar and post.

While the Stars saw most of the ball poor distribution was often letting them down as they began forcing the play.

Noah Roblin made a good run deep into the Jester’s penalty area and in behind the defense latching onto Mendez’s left wing cross but he failed to make sufficient contact to trouble Schumacher in the visiters goal.

At the other end it was Morise who was causing trouble and from a foul on the striker, Guttierrez again came up with the needed save from the resultant free-kick.

HT Stars 0-1 Jesters

The Stars started brightly as play recommenced with the Jesters sitting in and defending stoutly. The Stars pressure and wing play was forcing the Jesters deeper into their own half and although there were no clear-cut chances, the Stars offense was getting more of the ball in dangerous spaces.

What seemed like the inevitable equalizer finally arrived and it was no less than the Stars deserved. Romar Smith corralled Elean Fajardo’s feed and rifled home a rising effort into the Jester’s goal leaving Schumacher helpless.

With more than 30 minutes still to go in the game there was plenty of time for the Stars to engineer a winner. Casey Heustess replaced Noah Roblin for the first substitution of the game as coach Carl Reynolds looked to provide the go-ahead opportunity from the bench.

Kelton Keene picked up the first yellow card of the game for a foul on Jester’s Morise who was a constant thorn in the Stars defensive side.

As time progressed spaces were opening up in the midfield and the home team started to further dominate though clear chances were still tough to construct as the Jesters continued defending bravely in front of their own penalty area.

On occasions the Jesters looked like a boxer on the ropes, but the Stars needed to be aware of not falling to a late sucker punch.

The game became a loop of Stars attacks and Jester’s clearances. The visitors rarely threatened on offense, but their long ball clearances were always chased down, and the Stars had to remain vigilant and focused, despite enjoying the territorial advantage.

Into the last 15 minutes Sam Lambert replaced Michael Colburn for the Stars and the Jesters also made changes. It was still Stars pressing and Jester’s defending.

On 78 minutes Casey Heustess shot from KJ Mack’s cross only for Schumacher in the Jester’s goal to come up with another solid save. The Jester’s ‘keeper was also quick off his line to snuff out a number of through balls and was enjoying an excellent game.

As an enthralling game was coming to its last minutes the Stars had a couple more chances as Elean Fajardo’s free kick hooked agonizingly wide of the post and Romar Smith’s effort from a narrow angle hit the outside netting.

Smith had another shot saved as normal time wound down and in added time Cruz Rangel headed wide and Smith again shot goalward but without the accuracy needed to trouble Schumacher.

The game ended even with the Stars thinking they should have won and the Jester’s thinking they earned their reward for a resolute defensive performance.

After the game Jester’s head coach Igor Siscov expressed his feelings saying, “We faced very tough opponent, very good opponents. I watched them play here (against Pensacola FC), I was really impressed, we tried to stop them. We are a new team, we are building. We needed to mange the game against a very good team”.

Jesters goalscorer Mason Morise agreed in his post-game comments, “It was a hard-fought game for us, we knew the talent of Southern States, they are a very good team. All credit to them they defend well, attack well, get down the flanks but we got the draw and we’re more than happy with that”.

The Stars goalscorer Romar Smith was disappointed, “Yeh, disappointed, disappointed just because of the chance I had in the last five or six minutes, I thought we had it”.

Stars coach Carl Reynolds remained positive despite losing the early goal, “When that happens you can crumble, we just talked about relaxing and keeping to our principals, keep sticking at it. I said to them, on any other day, (you get) second goal, third goal, fourth goal but that’s football. Hopefully, we’ll get our little bit of luck somewhere else along this season. Really, really proud of the boys tonight”.