Category: 2021 NPSL Season

AFC Mobile Beat Jacksonville Armada FC 1-0 Behind a Stout Defensive Performance

Mobile, AL – AFC Mobile rebounded strongly from a tough road loss a week earlier, returning home to defeat Jacksonville Armada 1-0 in NPSL action. The game-winner came in the 65th minute of the second half, when Thierry Zabarel headed the ball into the back of the net off an Azaleas corner kick. It was just the team’s second corner kick of the match, with the first just a minute earlier.

Jacksonville had the run of play for much of the first half, but Mobile’s backline did its job and kept the Armada from any serious chances. The Armada had a chance in the 8th minute, but defender Mario Gratzl defended it well and it went out for a corner. AFC Mobile had its own chance in the 15th minute. Striker Ronaldo Fortune stole the ball at midfield, sprinted down the right side of the field, but his cross was unable to find a teammate and drifted harmlessly out of bounds. 

In the 19th minute, the Armada’s Jovoney Brown got through on goal but was fouled by Salia Carr. Carr picked up a yellow, and Carr was able to get his head on the ensuing free kick to maintain the scoreless tie.

Things got more interesting toward the end of the first half. In the 45th minute, striker Iba Ndaw had a great chance on goal, running straight down the center of the field. But his shot went straight into the hands of Armada goalkeeper Brandon Stam. Right after, the Armada stormed down the field and put the ball in net for an apparent 1-0 lead. But the referee had blown his whistle and called off the goal, instead awarding a penalty kick to Jacksonville just before halftime.

Javoney Brown took the kick for the Armada, but in the moment of the match, the penalty was miraculously saved by AFC Mobile goalkeeper William Blake. After the game, Blake said that “it was all a guessing game, but I guessed correctly this time.”

AFC Mobile came out even more energized to start the second half. While Blake’s save almost certainly played a part, Blake also gave credit to the team’s mentality.

“We’ve come out slow in the past couple of second halves,” Blake explained, “so our goal this time was to come out, never switch off, keep the pressure on, and defend defend defend.”

Blake ended the night with a clean sheet, thanks to that save and a stellar performance from the Azaleas’ back line. He had 15 saves, two shy of the club record set by Domenic Nascimben in 2019.

In the second half, AFC Mobile got its first corner kick of the night in the 63rd minute. That corner went nowhere but led to another corner kick a minute later. And this time, Soane Deminguet’s kick found Theirry Zabarel for what turned out to be the game-winner.

AFC Mobile Coach Steve Wieczorek was proud of his team’s effort, especially after an uninspired 2-0 loss to Port City FC a week earlier.

“We had a really long and difficult week together, to be quite honest,” Wieczorek said. “But I know that this group is very talented, and I know that we have a lot more to give. And I told them that this is a ‘make or break’ performance for a lot of the players… and I think that kind of kick-started some of them. And then also, we knew how good they were. So we had a game plan, and we executed it very well.”

The win now leaves AFC Mobile in fourth place in the NPSL Gulf South Conference, with 10 points and a record of 3 wins, 1 draw, and 3 losses. The Azaleas are undefeated at home and will play three more matches at Archbishop Lipscomb Stadium before their next road trip. AFC Mobile’s next match is Saturday, June 12th at 7PM (CT), when they host New Orleans Jesters.

AFC Mobile Falls to Pensacola FC 2-1

Despite a dominant first-half performance, AFC Mobile suffered a 2-1 loss to Pensacola FC on the road on Wednesday night.

Early in the first half, Zubair Taylor chipped a lovely ball over the Pensacola backline to Ronaldo Fortune, but Fortune could not quite get on the end of the ball and was easily collected by Pensacola’s Jules Dechert.

Mobile’s best chance came in the 29th minute when Fortune played a great ball to Soane Deminguet. Moments later, Clairy Kengeye made a run at the Pensacola defender at the top of the box and won the ball. Kengeye took a quick shot, but it was saved by Dechert.

“These games are very difficult. We knew that coming in. We wanted to play on the front foot, we wanted to apply our game model. Unfortunately, we didn’t take chances that we created in the first half and it put us in a difficult position in the second.” AFC Mobile head coach Steve Wieczorek said.

Pensacola scored early in the second half when Jordi Ramon headed the ball in off a Pensacola corner. The home team doubled their lead in the 63rd minute when Prince Owusu scored on a Pensacola counter-attack.

In a fixture known for late dramatics, the Azaleas nearly pulled a goal back. However, Mario Gratzl’s shot was touched by Jackson Wheatley in an offside position, nullifying the goal.

Mobile cut the lead to one in the 89th minute when Iba Ndaw forcefully headed a ball downward off of a corner into the Pensacola net. However, the visitors could not find the net a second time, and the match ended 2-1.

AFC Mobile take on Port City FC on Saturday in Gulfport, Mississippi in the second leg of the Forgotten Coast Cup. AFC Mobile currently holds a 2-1 lead in the rivalry competition. The Cup is presented to the team with the better aggregate score between the two regular season matches between the teams.

AFC Mobile Rallies to a 2-1 Victory over Florida Roots FC

MOBILE – After falling behind in the 9th minute, AFC Mobile rallied to secure a 2-1 victory over Florida Roots FC. The result puts AFC Mobile to 2-1-1 for their 2021 National Premier Soccer League Season, currently sitting in 3rd place in the NPSL Gulf Coast Conference.

Mobile started the match strong containing early possession, but an early deflection from a Roots corner led to a mess just outside the 18-yard box where a screened Salvador Plaza was beaten by a quick shot by the Roots’ Liam Kearns making a late run onto the bouncing clearance.

“I think there are some things that we can clean up because we put ourselves in another difficult position when it probably didn’t call for it,” AFC Mobile head coach Steve Wieczorek said. 

From there the match shifted heavily in Mobile’s favor with AFC Mobile creating chances through the holdup play of Ibrahima Ndaw and some great combination work between Soane Deminguet and Ronaldo Fortune. Ndaw found Deminguet, who was able to cut around the Roots defense playing it onto Fortune on the left side. Fortune cut it on the six-yard box squaring the ball to a streaking Ndaw, but Roots goalkeeper Joshua Burton was able to get a piece of it, sending it out for a Mobile corner kick.

With Mobile still trailing in the 26th minute, Ndaw held the ball to play Jackson Wheatley down the wing. Wheatley played a quick pass to Deminguet who sent a late arriving Ndaw through; however, the ball was tapped out by the Root defense for a Mobile corner. The corner taken by Deminguet was headed on frame by Mobile’s Vlad Margolin, but Florida’s David Born was able to head out and deflect what  would have been the Mobile equalizer.

In the 34th minute, a ball played from Mobile’s Andrew Rhoda found a streaking Wheatley underlapping towards the box. Wheatley played the ball to Fortune, who found an overlapping Margolin. Margolin’s cross found a powerful header by Ndaw, which was again saved by a header away from Ben Lebdaoui, who again denied Mobile their equalizer.

That equalizer would come in the 39th minute. Deminguet received the ball outside of the 18-yard box. After cutting in, he took a shot, which deflected off the hand of the Roots’ Agustin Vivas de Lorenzi. Ndaw was able to take the penalty shot and send the keeper in the wrong direction, equalizing the game at 1-1.

In the 43rd minute off a long throw from Stanley Joseph, Thierry Zabarel deflected  the ball into the back of the net to give AFC Mobile a 2-1 lead.

“By chance, I’m at the right moment, at the right time, at the right area and from a deflection, I touched it with my thigh…and to be the one who scored the goal that gave us the win, that’s the most important thing I think,” said Zabarel after the game.

The game became increasingly physical as the second half progressed with a hard challenge between Wheatley and Roots keeper Joshua Burton, leading to Wheatley’s substitution at halftime for Mobile native Clairy Kengeye.

Kengeye, a long-time member of AFC Mobile, made his appearance known immediately after halftime, when in the 47th minute a ball played to him led to a powerful shot that was saved by Burton. Burton came up big once again for the Roots with a spectacular save on Kengeye, who rocketed a shot to the far post in the 74th minute.

As stoppage time approached, Vlad Margolin received his second yellow card, which left Mobile down a man for the full six minutes of stoppage. 

“We got three points at home, so anytime that happens the guys are going to feel pretty good,” said Wieczorek, “I’m happy because we did win but I also think there are some things we can clean up.”

AFC Mobile moves to 2-1-1 on the season in the NPSL Gulf Coast Conference. The Azaleas hit the road next for a mid-week matchup at Pensacola on Wednesday, May 26, followed by the second leg of the Forgotten Coast Cup against rivals Port City FC in Gulfport. AFC Mobile will return home on June 5 to host Jacksonville Armada at 7:00 p.m. at the Archbishop Lipscomb Athletic Complex in Mobile. 

10-man AFC Mobile Score Late to Secure a 2-1 Win in the First Leg of the Forgotten Coast Cup

MOBILE – A late goal from Ronaldo Fortune gave 10-man AFC Mobile a win over rivals Port City FC in its home opener, the first leg of the 2021 Forgotten Coast Cup, a rivalry trophy handed to the aggregate regular-season winner of the two clubs. The 2021 edition is the first in the NPSL for the former GCPL rivals.

It was a difficult start for the Azaleas, as Port City scored in the fourth minute of the match after a short corner was floated into the box by Renan Diniz and headed over AFC Mobile goalkeeper Salvador Plaza by Guilherme Bittencourt. Minutes later, the Sounders were awarded a penalty after the referee spotted a handball in the box. Port City’s CJ Smith stepped up to take the penalty, but Plaza saved his shot, drawing a roar from the 1,246 fans in attendance.

“Sal made a very very good save and kind of energized us a little bit,” said AFC Mobile head coach Steve Wieczorek. “Obviously, playing in front of 1300 fans helps.”

Possession shifted in Mobile’s favor after Plaza’s save. Mobile’s Soane Deminguet’s chance in the 20th minute was saved by Port City’s Owen Betz. In the 24th minute, Port City’s Andrew Elkins saw a yellow card for a professional foul on Mobile’s Iba Ndaw in the midfield. 

In the 37th minute, Fortune’s shot was saved by Betz. Fortune collected the rebound and played the ball across the box to Jackson Wheatley, who dragged his shot wide – one of several chances created by Fortune in the game. In the 43rd minute, Mobile’s Ndaw received a pass, turned to beat the Port City midfield, and played a one-two with Fortune. Ndaw’s chance sailed wide left. 

In the 46th minute, AFC Mobile’s Zubair Taylor was sent off for a late, high tackle, reducing the Azaleas to ten men just before halftime.

Despite the red card at the end of the first half, the Azaleas started the second half on the front foot. In the 53rd minute, Fortune played a ball over the Sounders’ backline and found the feet of a charging Soane Deminguet, who received the ball with his back to goal, touched back to his right and slotted the ball home to level the match for the Azaleas. 

The teams traded chances for the next twenty minutes, with both keepers called into action. The last fifteen minutes saw a flurry of subs for the Azaleas as Erik Aispuro entered the game for Thierry Zabarel and Blake Palmquist entered for Darrius Rashid, who made his AFC Mobile debut on the night. 

The deadlock was finally broken in the 84th minute when Sounders attempted to clear Soane Deminguet’s corner attempt. Fortune picked up the rebound, and his shot rolled into the lower right-hand corner of the net, giving the Azaleas a 2-1 lead. 

“Honestly, I missed five opportunities,” Fortune said. “I knew the team needed something. I tried to be as patient as possible, and when I saw the little gap, I just took it.” 

  Wieczorek had high praise for the attacking midfielder. 

“We brought him in from the University of Mobile, where he’s an all-conference first-teamer,” he said. “He’s a guy that’s going to get ten, fifteen goals in a college season. He just needed to find his feet with his new teammates in a new system playing in a position he doesn’t play for in his college team. I knew the goals would come. Today could’ve been more than one, and I’m excited to see what he can deliver over the course of the season. 

Wieczorek did not reserve his praise for the attack. He noted that the Azaleas played ten men down for 45 minutes and gave his defense high marks.

“We played 45 minutes down ten men with a back three, and those guys defended valiantly. Sal played a very good game in the second half, and the back three with our center midfielders in front of them allowed the opportunity to attack the way we did.” 

This was the Azaleas’ first win of the season, and first in their NPSL history. The win gives Mobile four points from three games and sends them to third in the NPSL Gulf Coast Conference table.

Mobile will host Florida Roots in its next match, May 22 at 7 p.m. in Mobile. The second leg of the Forgotten Coast Cup will be contested the following week, May 29th, in Gulfport. The winner of the aggregate score of the two regular-season matches will be presented the rivalry trophy, which is currently in AFC Mobile’s trophy case after the 2019 season.

AFC Mobile Announces 2021 Summer Schedule

AFC Mobile will return to the pitch this summer in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL). The Azaleas were set to make their NPSL debut in the summer of 2020, but the season was suspended due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. AFC Mobile will be facing some familiar foes in the Gulf Coast Conference, such as Pensacola FC, Port City FC, and Tallahassee SC, as well as new competition in Southern States SC Stars of Hattiesburg, Mississippi; Florida Roots of Panama City Beach, Florida; and the New Orleans Jesters.

Don’t miss any of the action this season… get your AFC Mobile season passes today! Four different season pass packages are available for purchase.

Package A: Package A, a silicone AFC Mobile branded wristband that entitles you to admission to all AFC Mobile home matches and exclusive events, will be held at will call until picked up.

Package B: Get admission to every AFC Mobile National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) home match in 2021, including home playoffs, AND your choice of a 2021 Season Scarf OR a 2021 season t-shirt. These designs are produced by Mobile-based artists and will be revealed prior to the season.

Package C: Gain admission to all of AFC Mobile’s 2021 NPSL home matches plus a 2021 scarf AND a 2021 season shirt. These items are designed by Mobile-area artists and will be revealed prior to the season.

Package D: Gain admission to all AFC Mobile NPSL home matches in 2021, including playoffs hosted by AFC Mobile AND AFC Mobile’s first-ever custom-designed home jersey, designed by local artists and produced by Hummel.

Capacity will be limited in 2021. Don’t miss Mobile’s return to action this summer!