Stars Twinkle on Opening Night

The Oakes, Oak Grove, Miss.  –

On Saturday evening the Southern States Soccer Club Stars began life in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL). Their first ever game was played on their home field and it brought their first-ever victory defeating Pensacola FC by 3-0 in the Under 19 Pilot League.

If this game was a precursor of things to come, the Stars will be looking forward to more success in the league and a positive beginning to this new journey. In the Spring of 2021 the Stars will kick-off as a minor league soccer team in the NPSL’s adult league.

For now, it was the Under 19 team’s opportunity to shine first. And shine they did against visitors who had opened their league campaign a week earlier with a 5-0 win over AFC Mobile. It appeared the Stars could not have asked for a tougher opening.

On a warm, wind-free evening, on a playing surface that was in top class condition, beckoning good football to be played, the Stars obliged.

Both teams endured a frantic opening with a clutch of fouls and wasted free-kicks littering the first 15 minutes.

However, on 18 minutes the scrappy affair burst into life as Stars skipper Cruz Rangel took a pass from Elean Fajardo, centrally, on the edge of the penalty box and shot toward the top right-hand corner of the Pensacola net. The visiting goalkeeper failed to keep out the effort as he scrambled across goal and the Stars were ahead.

Ethan Boles had a chance to double the lead but missed from Romar Smith’s cut-back as the Stars moved forward with confidence following the opening strike.

Stars’ Michael Colburn was shown a yellow card on 29 minutes and two minutes later teammate Elean Fajardo saw his 20-yard effort saved. Colburn shook off the effects of the card by heading his team further in front, beating the goalkeeper to Fajardo’s diagonal cross ball to gently nod into the open net.

The game was pulled further away from Pensacola’s grasp as Fajardo ripped a 20-yard low strike past the hapless goalkeeper’s grasp on 44 minutes and it was 3-0.

The Stars entered the locker room to the cheers of their supporters at half-time with the game safely under their control. The miserly Stars defense had allowed no shots on target and goalkeeper Diego Guttierrez was rarely troubled as Pensacola forward Anthony Ciccarelo was left isolated up front.

The second half kicked-off with Pensacola needing to show a lot more offensive guile if they were to get back into the game but it was the Stars who still called the tune shutting down the visiting offense.

On 60 minutes the Floridians had a shout for a penalty-kick turned down by the referee and with that call it seemed as though a little more belief drained away from them.

The final half-hour was a game of stop-start soccer as a raft of fouls and free-kicks broke the consistency of play. With the full amount of substitutions made by both teams as time progressed, the game was petering out without finding the levels it had done in the first half.

For the Stars, of course, this was just what was needed to prevent Pensacola from mounting a sustained challenge to their comfortable lead. There was a late flurry of free-kicks and corner-kicks which led to little in the way of goalscoring opportunities and Pensacola failed to create anything of note from open play.

The final whistle blew on what was a historic and memorable night for the Southern States Soccer Club whose Stars are, for now at least, in the ascendancy.