AFC Mobile, the current GCPL East leaders, (3-1-0, 10 points) will look to build on its fast start to the season on Saturday when it hosts Gulf Coast Rangers (2-2-0, 8 points) who are coming off a disappointing 0-0 midweek draw with Port City FC.
All-time series: In the first year of this fixture, Gulf Coast Rangers won both legs, 2-0. At the Lip, a controversial call erased an apparent goal from Mobile’s Abdal Al-Mutairi and Rangers’ Nathan Gillespie, a former AFC Mobile man, scored the second goal into an open net after Mobile pulled its keeper into the Rangers’ box for a late corner. In the Baldwin County leg, Mobile played toe-to-toe with the Rangers and had what would have been the go-ahead goal disallowed again when Martin Fiemwhale was ruled offside. Two second-half goals completed the double for the Rangers, who went on to a second-place finish in the GCPL East.
The Gulf Coast Ranger’s Players to Watch: The Gulf Coast Rangers feature several familiar faces to AFC Mobile fans: Brantton Greene, a former AFC Mobile left back with lightning quick speed up the flanks in both the attack and defense, and Barou Ndaw, former AFC Mobile goalkeeper and brother of AFC Mobile’s current leading goalscorer Ibrahima Ndaw, minding the nets. The Rangers also boast a strong midfield led by Cameron Cranton, an attacking midfielder who leads the charge for the Rangers with incisive passing and Matt McArthur, a hard-nosed, experienced defensive midfielder who poses a threat from set pieces. Leading the line is last year’s GCPL Eastern Conference MVP Yan Livenu, who stretches defenses with his off-ball movement.
Matchup to Watch: The key matchup to watch will undoubtedly be Livenu’s duel with AFC Mobile’s Vlad Margolin. Margolin has proved solid in defense for the Azaleas through four games this season, quieting current golden boot leader Mikey Lightbourne of Pensacola in addition to Port City’s dangerous pair of Michael Cooper and Jordan Hall. Livenu’s technical skill and deep runs will pose a different threat for Margolin, Zubair Taylor, goalkeeper Domenic Nascimben, and the rest of the Mobile backline.
Why this is a big deal? These are two clubs looking to top one another in the standings and on the pitch. They are the last two undefeated teams in the Eastern Conference, and with a win, would top the league-wide GCPL standings. A win for Mobile would cement the upstart Azaleas as the real deal and the team to beat going into the second half of the season, providing a serious boost to the team’s push for its first-ever playoff place.
AFC Mobile hosts the Gulf Coast Rangers at the Archbishop Lipscomb Athletic Complex, 3610 Michael Boulevard, Mobile, Alabama. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 and kids 12 and under are admitted for free.