Last week in a fantastic environment and atmosphere, AFC Mobile (3-2-1, 11 points) pulled off a hugely important draw on the road against Tallahassee Soccer Club (3-2-1, 11 points). With Pensacola FC pulling off an otherworldly and dominant upset of the Gulf Coast Rangers, the top of the Eastern Conference now has three teams – Gulf Coast Rangers, Tallahassee SC, and AFC Mobile – tied on points and only tiebreakers separating the three. Hattiesburg FC is coming off a late 2-1 loss to Port City FC where PCFC’s Jordan Hall scored in the dying moments to give Port City the win.
All-time series: In the second game of the season, AFC Mobile went to Hattiesburg and took all three points. Tilman Schober opened the scoring for the Azaleas and goals were added on by Chisom Ogbonna and Ibrahima Ndaw. The match saw the Mobilians hold most of the possession, but Hattiesburg was able to attack on the counter, forcing some exceptional defensive work out of center backs Vlad Margolin and Zubair Taylor, as well as forcing some big stops from goalkeeper Domenic Nascimben before AFC Mobile left Mississippi with a 3-0 victory.
Hattiesburg FC Players to Watch: On the attacking end, Hattiesburg features Matias Pazos, a recent graduate of William Carey University and a former Division II All-American at WVU Tech. He will be in charge of leading the HFC attack. But even with the magic Pazos can provide, the truth is, as goes Andrew Elkins, so goes Hattiesburg. Elkins, a GCPL veteran of a few seasons and winner of the 2018 GCPL Cup with Port City FC, is a strong, smart defender with imposing size and intellect. He is capable of marshaling his younger teammates out of tough situations. Along with goalkeeper Adrian Cabado, the defense of Hattiesburg has kept this young squad competitive in every match this season.
Matchup to Watch: Here we again will be focused on how Andrew Elkins deals with the Mobile attack, but particularly the dynamism of Chisom Ogbonna and Arad Lev-Ari. Lev-Ari and Ogbonna were able to put in strong shifts in the first match against Hattiesburg. It will be how Elkins and the rest of the Hattiesburg squad re-calibrate their defensive performances that will ultimately show if Hattiesburg can get a result in Alabama. Ogbonna and Lev-Ari, as well as Mikey Conneh and Clairy Kengeye, will have to move the ball quickly in order to open up space; meanwhile, Hattiesburg will need to shut down the Azalea attack in order to keep their slim playoff hopes realistically alive.
Why this is a big deal? With the way this matchup is lining up and with Tallahassee and the Rangers meeting this weekend as well, a win or draw could potentially push AFC Mobile into either first or second place in the Eastern Conference; however, a loss to Hattiesburg FC could be detrimental for the Azaleas heading into the final stretch of the season
AFC Mobile plays Hattiesburg FC at the Archbishop Lipscomb Athletic Complex, 3610 Michael Boulevard, Mobile, Alabama. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. CDT. Tickets are $10 and kids 12 and under are admitted for free.