Stars Defeat Naples 5-1, Move On To Regional Final

The Oakes, Oak Grove, Miss. –

Southern States SC Advances With 5-1 Win Over Naples United FC

At the Oakes in Oak Grove, Mississippi, Southern States SC Stars entertained Naples United FC out of Florida. The Sunshine Conference Champions ranked #3 were coming of victories over #2 Miami Dutch Lions and #1 Miami United FC. Both wins were by impressive 4-1 score lines.

The Stars Conference Championship game was canceled after opponents the New Orleans Jesters had players test positive for Covid-19. As a make-up game was unable to be scheduled due to the quarantine period required before the Regional Play-Offs began, Southern States SC were given the path to the play-off game with Naples.

The Stars had finished as #3 seed in the Gulf Coast Conference and defeated #2 seed Pensacola FC on the road by 2-1. The #4 seed Jesters pulled of a superb win over #1 Jacksonville Armada by 3-1 0n the road. Unfortunately, there was to be no Championship game.

On the face of it the Stars appeared to have a tough task ahead against Naples but inside 6 minutes they were ahead. A quickly taken free-kick by the intelligent Liam Bennett put the Stars into the Naples penalty area. The result was a pair of corner-kicks to the Stars, the second of which was headed home by JR Cozine from Danny Reynolds.

On 30 minutes the Stars netted again this time Cozine setting up Reynolds who’s bending left-foot strike flew past the Naples ‘keeper for 2-0.

The visitors were shaken but clawed their way back into the game when a headed flick-on caught out the Stars defense and goalkeeper Grejeda who had come of his line only for Jonathan Gonzalez to expertly chip home.

At 2-1 Naples were back in the fight but the gap was widened to two goals again just 7 minutes later as good work down the right saw Cozine cross for Julian Avila to run into the six-yard box and head home at the back post for 3-1.

Worse was to follow on the stroke of half-time when #18 was red-carded for a cynical foul on the Stars’ Tom Shepherd. From the resultant free-kick, Danny Reynolds put in a near post cross for the previously fouled Tom Shepherd to turn home from close range. Suddenly the Naples team were 4-1 down as the teams went into the half-time break.

The second half of the game is best forgotten as it became chippy and littered with fouls which eventually lead to a red card for Naples goal scorer Jonathan Gonzalez and Stars Danny Reynolds for retaliation. With the Stars down to ten men and Naples at nine with the game winding down Andre Deas went on a solo run before slotting home on 84 minutes to complete the score at 5-1 to the Stars.

The Stars will travel to Tulsa Athletic on Sunday in the South Region Final but without talisman Danny Reynolds who will sit the game as a result of his red card.

Stars coach Carl Reynolds said he was, “Fantastic, elated, the boys were brilliant tonight, we keep our best performances for the biggest games, which is a really good trait. It wasn’t the nicest team to play against if I’m being honest. We did really, really, well to play the way we have been wanting to all season. We’re excited and ready to go to Tulsa now”.

JR Cozine who scored and assisted was thankful for the home support tonight. “We couldn’t have asked for better (support), we showed up, we put our chances away, yeh, looking forward to the next game”.

The Naples coach was unavailable for comment.

IMAGES: BRENT WALLACE PHOTOGRAPHY