The Oakes, Oak Grove, Miss. –
The Southern States SC Stars made full use of home field advantage with a goal in each half as they put away Port City FC in this in-state rivalry.
The Stars who had already opened their season with a home field win over AFC Mobile were well prepared to take on Port City who were playing their first game of the season. The two Mississippi based teams are located just an hour apart. The visitors traveled up from Gulfport to Hattiesburg for this first match-up of the season.
Although this was the first meeting for the senior teams, the clubs had played each other three times in under-19 pilot league play earlier this spring. The Stars dominated all three of those games while the City had won both fall pilot league games. A healthy rivalry had been built up over these games and the first senior level encounter was to be just as competitive.
The Stars showed from the start that their preparation was ahead of the visitors and they settled quickest into the game. Port City were comfortable holding the early Stars attacks but were finding little on the offensive front early on.
Unable to relieve the pressure with any consistent offense, it was no surprise when the Stars eventually opened the scoring on 18 minutes. Playing out from the back and through midfield, the Stars Liam Bennett and Andre Deas combined on top of the box to set up Attila Sepkin. The midfielder fired, low, into the corner of the net past Grant Adam in the City goal. For Deas with the assist, it made up for a missed opportunity just minutes earlier. It was a deserved early lead.
The rest of the half half followed a similar pattern with Port City in their yellow and blue uniforms defending well but unable to press the attack despite falling behind.
With the score at 1-0 as the half-time whistle blew, the Stars had dominated possession but with just the lone goal to show for it.
The second half started in much the same pattern as the first. Stars on top but unable to find the second goal that would probably be enough to secure a victory.
In the 58th minute it came with a class goal scored out of a superb, long, diagonal ball, right to left from Julian Avila. His pinpoint pass found Danny Reynolds’ clever run in behind the static Port City backline and the former Seattle Sounder stop volleyed a delightful pass into the path of Billy Boag who tucked it home for the two-goal lead. Even though this was only the Stars second game, this will surely be a goal worthy of the season’s best.
There looked to be no way back for the visitors now and with more than half an hour left to play, they were looking hard pressed to keep the Stars at bay. In fact, Billy Boag should have done better with a left-wing cross straight after the restart but sliced wide when well placed.
If there was to be any comeback for Port City it looked like it would come through number eleven Courtney Smith. Smith had been lively all night but without the support he needed to stretch the Stars solid defense.
On 66 minutes Smith showed his talent beating two Stars defenders inside the left side of the penalty-area and playing a low ball into the near post but Ethan Loftin lifted his snap shot over the crossbar failing to trouble goalkeeper Hector Grajeda.
As the game moved into its final quarter the teams traded attacks and the visitors were finding a little more room as they took more chances going forward.
On 86 minutes that was never more evident than when a Port City free-kick driven into the Stars penalty area was cleared allowing Andre Deas to race clear on a counter-attack before firing wide.
Grajeda was forced into a finger tip save touching the ball over the crossbar from a Smith header for Port City but that was the closest they came to damaging the shot stoppers shutout.
The Stars improved to 2-0 with the win with Port City FC (0-1) opening goalless and pointless.
What They Said
Coach Carl Reynolds for the Stars was a little concerned with his team’s overall performance saying, “We weren’t at our best tonight, but we didn’t need to be. The boys are obviously happy with the clean sheet and the two goals we scored were really from the top draw. We’re pleased to win without playing our best, something you have to do to be successful”.
And on the upcoming game with the New Orleans Jesters on Saturday, Reynolds remarked, “Yeh, we watched them against AFC Mobile they’ve got some really good players, so obviously they’ll have our full respect and now our attention turns to them on Saturday. Looking forward to it”.
Stars defensive lynchpin Samuel Dadzie was full of praise for his team. “It’s hard bringing a bunch of guys together that haven’t played with each other before, but we’ve come together here, we have a lot of talented players here. We have guys who want to work hard and are buying in to what the coach is asking us to do. It’s showing in our game. This is our second shutout in a row to start the season, you know we’re really happy with that. During the week we worked on our pressing from the front and dealing with high balls going in behind us. The forward players did a wonderful job throughout the game making it easier for our defense”.
Port City coach Chris Handy wasn’t to disappointed considering his teams short preparation time saying, “It’s the first game, we’ve only been together three times. You know, for a first outing I thought the guys worked hard, they played hard, we’ll take it and learn from it and try to do better the next time. (On the Stars longer prep time) “We expected it to be hard, we needed to get some shape, get used to playing with one another, give ourselves something to build on for the future. It was always going to be a tough game, we knew that. I can’t be upset with our effort. I was happy to get some chances later in the game, so something to be happy about”.
Photo Credits: Top Jesse Johnson. Bottom Sophie Bell