Tag: National Premier Soccer League

Pensacola FC Scores Late to Sink AFC Mobile 1-0

Photo Credit: Seth Laubinger

After days of uncertainty due to the looming threat of Tropical Depression Claudette, Pensacola FC was able to make the trip west on I-10 to take on AFC Mobile on what turned out to be a beautiful night for soccer at the Archbishop Lipscomb Athletic Complex. Despite the beautiful weather, the night ended in depression for Mobile fans as Pensacola FC scored a goal in the 89th minute to seal a 1-0 victory. 

The Azaleas had a significant chance in the first half when striker Karl Mbouombouo was played past the Pensacola backline by Ronaldo Fortune. However, Pensacola’s keeper, Jules Dechert, closed down Mbouombouo, forcing the forward to play a shot straight at the keeper.  Mobile had another chance in the 23rd minute when Fortune’s low-rolling, long-range effort slid just to the left of the goal. Fortune led the Azaleas to another chance just five minutes later when he picked the ball up in midfield and sprayed it wide to Clairy Kengeye, who throttled a shot while being closed down by a Pensacola defender. Kengeye’s effort was stopped but bobbled by Dechert, who collected the ball as Kengeye ran at him. 

Dechert sent the ball down the field for the 59ers. After a lovely passage of play, Pensacola took a shot that was saved by Mobile’s goalkeeper Will Blake. It was one of several saves the Mobile native made on the night to keep the Azaleas level.

The home team took another chance in the 32nd minute when Fortune was played in behind the Pensacola backline by Kengeye. Fortune brought the ball down and tried to chip Dechert, but the Pensacola keeper kept his composure, reached up, and saved Fortune’s shot. Then, in the 36th minute, Mobile’s Kengeye was shown a yellow card for a light shove on a Pensacola player.  

“We put ourselves in a position that we needed to be in to score goals, and there were a couple of other moments in the first half as well where we were able to do that,” AFC Mobile head coach Steve Wiezorek said. “Unfortunately, in the game of soccer when you don’t capitalize on those chances, the game has ebbs and flows, and the flow went back against us. You get what you get when it doesn’t go in the back of the net.” 

Mobile made two changes to start the second half. Eddie Dakwa came on for Salia Carr and Iba Ndaw for Karl Mbouombouo. However, the 59ers came out strong in the second half and were awarded a free kick in the 51st minute, which was saved by a diving Will Blake, continuing the dominant goalkeeping performances seen from both sides in the first half. 

In what had been a fantastic attacking performance so far, the Azaleas attempted to sharpen their attacking edge by bringing on Chisom Ogbonna for Blake Palmquist. The home team nearly took the lead in the 69th minute when Fortune charged down the right-wing and pulled the ball back to avoid Dechert. However, Dechert slid into Fortune, causing him to go down and causing the fans to clamor for a penalty that was not given. Ten minutes later, Clairy Kengeye saw his second yellow card on the night, leaving the home team down to 10 men. 

“I’m disappointed obviously,” Wieczorek said. “I never put things on the referee, that’s the referee’s decision and choice, but obviously he has to know that the player has a yellow card, so that decision has to be worthy to be another yellow card because you understand that you change the dynamic of the game drastically. So now we went from being in a position where we had a decent foothold in the game and could potentially score, and now we’re just hanging on. And we couldn’t.” 

Pensacola’s Samuel Richards was cautioned in the 87th minute when he brought down Mobile’s Iba Ndaw on a counter-attack. The fans clamored for more than a red card on what they believed was a clear goalscoring opportunity, but Richards was shown only a yellow. This set up a Mobile free-kick from just beyond midfield. Defender Zubair Taylor sent a beautiful ball into the box that was headed wide right of the goal by Stanley Joseph. 

Pensacola took the lead in the 89th minute when Jamaican international Jabari Hylton received a ball in the box and maneuvered his way past Mobile’s Stanley Joseph to slot home the game-winner. The goal was Hylton’s second in as many games for the 59ers. 

Pensacola FC will attempt to build on this win when they travel to Tommy Oliver Stadium in Panama City this Tuesday to take on Florida Roots FC. This ended a four-match homestand for the Azaleas, who will now travel to the Sunshine State to play three matches on the road. The first of which is also against Florida Roots this Thursday night. 

AFC Mobile to Participate in NPSL Pilot Program

Mobile, Alabama – July 2nd, 2020 – AFC Mobile will participate in the National Premier Soccer League’s U-19 pilot program.

 

“The introduction of a U-19 pilot under the NPSL umbrella represents our commitment to grassroots soccer and supporting our teams’ growth potential.” NPSL Chairman Kenny Farrell said. “This new venture positions our clubs to further refine the local pathway to the top level of soccer in their area. Players from all backgrounds will have access to a highly visible platform to showcase their talent – particularly in geographic areas where opportunities are limited.  By giving players a legitimate local option to advance, it keeps them engaged with soccer at an affordable cost for families. The U-19 pilot will give NPSL teams the chance to develop their own academies or build relationships with existing programs.”

 

The pilot program will fall under the management of the NPSL and will be affiliated with the United States Adult Soccer Association (USASA). The participating teams include AFC Mobile, New Orleans Jesters, Pensacola FC and Port City FC. 

 

The pilot will run from September through November.  Each team will play a total of six games, three home and three away.    

 

The gameday roster will consist of U-17, U-18, and U-19 players along with up to three overage players. The U-19 pilot program will give AFC Mobile Academy members the opportunity to train with the senior team. 

 

“The NPSL U-19 pilot is a perfect representation of what the teams in our conference want from their academies: a direct relationship with a pathway to our senior team,” AFC Mobile co-owner Sean Landry said. “It’s exciting that the NPSL is providing  new and challenging developmental opportunities for the young players in Mobile, on the Gulf Coast, and, hopefully soon, throughout the country.”

 

AFC Mobile’s U-19 team will be managed by first team head coach Steve Wieczorek. Wieczorek led AFC Mobile to the GCPL Cup playoffs in 2019 and has recently been named the Technical Director of the newly formed AFC Mobile Academy. He is also the current head coach at Spring Hill College. 

 

Those interested in playing for AFC Mobile’s U-19 team should contact the club at information@afcmobile.net

 

Why the LPL could be greater than the NPSL for AFC Mobile

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When AFC Mobile was founded just under a year ago, we knew that we wanted to build a new team in Mobile. We had no intention on being another failed invention of a team that existed on the outskirts keeping certain parts of our community at bay. Beyond a team, we wanted to build a community of players, coaches, supporters, kids, adults, and more.

Our board spent a large amount of time discussing where Mobile would best fit into the skewed soccer map of the United States. I will not bore you with the insane details of how the soccer system in the US works, but the discussions we had were lengthy. Did we want to be a fully professional team? Did we want to be a fully youth team? What was the primary age of people we wanted to have? All of these things were examined, argued, and considered. When the dust settled it came down to two options: the National Premier Soccer League and the Louisiana Premier League.

The NPSL is the most “prestigious” of these leagues; it is also the most expensive. NPSL travel is, in many cases, prohibitively expensive. While looking at a team like the New Orleans Jesters, who would be our closest competitor and would play in the NPSL conference that we would play in, it became fairly clear that that is a path that would not work for what we wanted. The club would be faced with extreme travel, fatigue, and a quick, short season that would not benefit the players, the coaches, or the supporters who wished to travel. Indeed, as seen in the chart below, the travel would be the ultimate hurdle.

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Distances between NPSL Southeast teams if AFC Mobile were to join

Part of what we are building, or want to build, has to do not only with the play but also the game day experience. Coming down off the back of the first semi-competitive game in Mobile during my time here, I was more than excited about this possibility for AFC Mobile. The social media chattering with the Gulf Coast Armada and players and fans of Biloxi City FC was fun; however, at the game it was even better. Chanting and mildly disorganized chants from the GCA and back and forth with Biloxi City FC was part of the atmosphere. It was never vile, or evil, or hurtful on either half, it was fun. Post game, we even talked with some of the Biloxi players who gave everyone a good ribbing.

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If you play in NPSL, you get to do that with New Orleans. However, if you do it in the LPL, you get to do it for nearly every game. Maybe not everyone travels to every game. Maybe you can’t get up to Shreveport and maybe their fans can’t make it back to Mobile, but there will be mutual respect/disdain on the fan’s half. The travel is far less for players and supporters, which makes for more competitive games and better conditioning for players. Additionally, the LPL season is longer. The league already goes to Mississippi and there are plans of further growing that league to reach as far East as Tallahassee, Panama City Beach, Dothan, AL, and Pensacola. This is really kind of perfect.

The Gulf Coast soccer experience is growing. The level of players that competed at Sage in the friendly between a local Mobile team (Legion FC) and the closest LPL team to Mobile (Biloxi City FC) was impressive. The fact that Biloxi was actually missing some of their regular first teamers let’s you know that they are going to be a team to deal with in the upcoming LPL season. This is also true of Mobile. Legion FC represented Mobile well, but there are more players. There are players on other SASA teams. There are players who play in local adult leagues in Daphne, Fairhope, and even Foley.

And sure, the National Premier Soccer League has a level “prestige” to it, but the teams there also fail and fold at an alarming rate due to incredibly high costs of ownership and travel. In regards to the travel, Mobile would be in an awful location (see the aforementioned chart).

But why does the prestige of a league matter anyway? It should be about the prestige of the team. The community inside and surrounding the team is what should matter. And with no option to progress through promotion and relegation, a team should be more concerned with itself than its league.

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Potential LPL map with AFC Mobile included

However, the LPL is following along the path of the Premier League of America, and in just a short time they are pushing themselves into that exceptional, elite category that the NPSL has garnered. The winner of the PLA even earns a berth in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, which is the largest and oldest soccer tournament in the country featuring teams from MLS, the NASL, the USL, the PDL, the NPSL, and more.

The LPL is growing. In fact, they too have a berth in the US Open Cup. Imagine a team from Mobile playing a game with Kaká or Clint Dempsey, or Michael Bradley, or Frank Lampard at Ladd-Peebles. Unlikely? Maybe. Impossible? No.

Additionally, the LPL is a far better fit travel-wise and eventually, maybe even quickly, it will become a prestigious league if enough clubs and communities can prove that they are exceptional

Mobile is. AFC Mobile will be. The LPL will be too.

AFC Mobile is going to be a team that represents the region, and after much thought and consideration of the different variables, we hope to represent it in the LPL.