The old idiom about it being “crunch time” is a reality for AFC Mobile this weekend. After dropping a tough 2-1 decision to Port City FC last week, the Azaleas (4-2-2, 14 points) are looking to rebound against a resurgent Pensacola FC (2-2-4, 8 points) squad that while already eliminated from the playoffs has been scoring goals at alarming rate and making a mess for GCPL Eastern Conference playoff hopefuls as they do.
All-time series: AFC Mobile and Pensacola FC have been tied at the hip for years, and AFC Mobile would likely not exist without Pensacola. Pensacola FC likewise would not be in the GCPL without AFC Mobile. Over the past three years, the series is tied as well. The Azaleas and the 59ers each have two wins, two draws, and one loss against each other. However, it is not the results as much as it is the scorelines in the matches that people remember. Pensacola and Mobile have combined for 28 goals over five games. The last three matches played by these two sides have all ended in 4-3 results, with Mobile winning two of those and Pensacola taking the other.
And with the way Pensacola has been putting up goals since they were awoken in the second half against Mobile a few weeks back, there is no reason to not expect another fire storm this week.
Pensacola FC Players to Watch: Pensacola features a plethora of former University of West Florida stars and hall of famers, but it is Mikey Lightbourne who leads the charge with 6 goals so far on the season. Lightbourne is the focal point of the Pensacola attack, playing as either a central attacking midfielder or support striker. The former Orlando City U23 player has proven difficult to stop for most defenses in the GCPL East.
Matchup to Watch: Arad Lev-Ari and Erik Aispuro are going to have to be big players for the Azaleas. While the backline will have its hands full with the huge attacking resurgence of Pensacola FC, it will be up to Lev-Ari and Aispuro to lead the charge on the attack for Mobile. Pensacola’s Christoph Zeller has consistently been a top defender in the league and since the 59ers have switched from their 4-3-3 formation that started the season to a more conservative 4-4-2, a shift they made in the second half against AFC Mobile back on June 1st, they tightened up their defense. But beyond Lev-Ari and Aispuro trying to break down Pensacola, Domenic Nascimben will undoubtedly need to have another big performance to stop an attack that has produced 17 goals in the last 4.5 matches.
Why is this a big deal? Mobile holds its own playoff fate in their hands. Yes, there are ways that the Azaleas could qualify for the playoffs that require help from other teams, but AFC Mobile’s easiest path is to win its final games. Pensacola, meanwhile, find themselves outside of the playoffs with no way in. With this in mind, Pensacola has never lost in Mobile and this rejuvenated squad could really do some damage in this match to keep things incredibly tight in the GCPL East heading into the last week if they can earn another victory in Mobile.
AFC Mobile hosts Pensacola FC 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 free.