Tag: Non League America

AFC Mobile Falls to Tallahassee SC in Final Game of the Season

Tallahassee SC edged AFC Mobile 2-1 at the Archbishop Lipscomb Athletic Complex on Saturday night in both teams’ last match of the season. The result knocked AFC Mobile out of the running for a playoff berth. 

“I’m a big believer in the fact that a game shows you what you deserve. We drew three games and lost today from winning positions. That’s not good enough if you want to be a playoff team,” AFC Mobile head coach Steve Wieczroek said. “The reality is that we’ve had a lot of attrition in terms of players moving on at different parts of the season and we are where we deserve to be. So tonight’s performance kind of typifies that.” 

The Azaleas started the night on the right foot with a goal from forward Iba Ndaw. In the third minute of the match, Clairy Kengeye chipped the ball over the Tallahassee backline onto the feet of Ndaw, who charged at the Tallahassee goal and fired the shot past keeper Grant Wollam. 

There were only a few chances for either side for the remainder of the first half. In the 31st minute, a hard collision in the Tallahassee box sent Mobile’s Thierry Zabarel to the concussion protocol. Zabarel was cleared to return to the match just before the end of the half. However, the injury led to five minutes of stoppage time. In the third minute of stoppage, Tallahassee’s Cam Earls slotted home a shot off of a free kick equalizing the score just before halftime. 

The second half was a cagey affair with few quality chances for either side. AFC Mobile’s all-time leading goalscorer Chisom Ogbonna checked into the match with thirty minutes left to play. He created a few chances but nothing that threatened the Tallahassee defense. The Battle Lions took the lead in the 83rd minute after Tallahassee was awarded a penalty. Sy Fontenot stepped up to take the spot kick. His shot was saved by Mobile’s keeper Will Blake, but Fontenot put away the rebound giving the Battle Lions the 2-1 victory on the night as well as the first time that either team had won a match in the history of this fixture. Until this match, all three previous fixtures between the clubs ended in a draw. 

After the match, AFC Mobile’s head coach Steve Wieczorek reflected on the season for the Azaleas.  “We put in some really good performances in terms of being competitive in games, but really just lacked whatever is needed to be where we want to be,” Wieczorek said. “We are where we should be, but not where we want to be as a club.  

Wieczorek also said that the club will get to work preparing for the 2022 season right away.  “There needs to be a full assessment of all the choices I’ve made. Obviously as a coach I’m going to think about what choices I made. Did I play the right players at the right positions… at the right times… did I make the right choices throughout the season?  And then I’m going to assess if I brought in the right players. Were they the right players in terms of culture and in terms of ability? And then we’ll assess where we need to go from here. Because we can’t have a thousand people watch us finish in the bottom half of the league.” 

AFC Mobile finished its inaugural season in the NPSL fifth among eight teams in the Gulf Coast Conference.

Tallahassee SC edged AFC Mobile 2-1 at the Archbishop Lipscomb Athletic Complex on Saturday night in both teams’ last match of the season. The result knocked AFC Mobile out of the running for a playoff berth. 

“I’m a big believer in the fact that a game shows you what you deserve. We drew three games and lost today from winning positions. That’s not good enough if you want to be a playoff team,” AFC Mobile head coach Steve Wieczroek said. “The reality is that we’ve had a lot of attrition in terms of players moving on at different parts of the season and we are where we deserve to be. So tonight’s performance kind of typifies that.” 

The Azaleas started the night on the right foot with a goal from forward Iba Ndaw. In the third minute of the match, Clairy Kengeye chipped the ball over the Tallahassee backline onto the feet of Ndaw, who charged at the Tallahassee goal and fired the shot past keeper Grant Wollam. 

There were only a few chances for either side for the remainder of the first half. In the 31st minute, a hard collision in the Tallahassee box sent Mobile’s Thierry Zabarel to the concussion protocol. Zabarel was cleared to return to the match just before the end of the half. However, the injury led to five minutes of stoppage time. In the third minute of stoppage, Tallahassee’s Cam Earls slotted home a shot off of a free kick equalizing the score just before halftime. 

The second half was a cagey affair with few quality chances for either side. AFC Mobile’s all-time leading goalscorer Chisom Ogbonna checked into the match with thirty minutes left to play. He created a few chances but nothing that threatened the Tallahassee defense. The Battle Lions took the lead in the 83rd minute after Tallahassee was awarded a penalty. Sy Fontenot stepped up to take the spot kick. His shot was saved by Mobile’s keeper Will Blake, but Fontenot put away the rebound giving the Battle Lions the 2-1 victory on the night as well as the first time that either team had won a match in the history of this fixture. Until this match, all three previous fixtures between the clubs ended in a draw. 

After the match, AFC Mobile’s head coach Steve Wieczorek reflected on the season for the Azaleas.  “We put in some really good performances in terms of being competitive in games, but really just lacked whatever is needed to be where we want to be,” Wieczorek said. “We are where we should be, but not where we want to be as a club.  

Wieczorek also said that the club will get to work preparing for the 2022 season right away.  “There needs to be a full assessment of all the choices I’ve made. Obviously as a coach I’m going to think about what choices I made. Did I play the right players at the right positions… at the right times… did I make the right choices throughout the season?  And then I’m going to assess if I brought in the right players. Were they the right players in terms of culture and in terms of ability? And then we’ll assess where we need to go from here. Because we can’t have a thousand people watch us finish in the bottom half of the league.” 

AFC Mobile finished its inaugural season in the NPSL fifth among eight teams in the Gulf Coast Conference.

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 Falls to Southern States 1-0

Photo Credit: Riley Navarre

AFC Mobile lost 1-0 to Southern States SC on Wednesday night in Mobile. The Stars took the lead late in the first half after being stifled by a new-look AFC Mobile backline, which saw head coach Steve Wieczorek play five at the back for the first time this season.

“I think we were tremendous tonight to be quite honest. We were competitive, we were mature, we did all the things that we needed to do except get the one goal we were playing for,” Wieczorek said. 

It was apparent that the Azaleas were expecting a high pressing match from the visiting Stars. Southern States controlled the ball for the early part of the match, but the Azaleas’ backline frustrated the Stars and kept them from finding the back of the net. However, the Stars took the lead late in the first half when Danny Reynolds sent a low-rolling cross into the box that was slotted home by Julian Avila 

“We expected them to come hard. That wasn’t an easy game,” AFC Mobile captain Thierry Zabarel said.  “Overall we did a great job, but little mistakes make the difference. But we have another game on Saturday, so we’ve got to focus.” 

The Azaleas made two changes to start the second half, bringing Darius Rashid and Ronaldo Fortune in for Eddie Dakwa and Karl Mbouombouo. Southern States dominated much of the possession, but continued to be frustrated by Mobile’s defense. The Azaleas received a much needed spark in the 60th minute when Ronaldo Fortune hit the Stars on a counter-attack while Southern States keeper Hector Grajeda was off his line. However, Fortune’s shot did not challenge the keeper as it went just left of the goal.  

In the 80th minute Mobile subbed on Iba Ndaw for Blake Palmquist and Chisom Ogbonna for Andrew Rhoda. With this substitution, Ogbonna became the all-time leading appearance leader for AFC Mobile. 

“Coming into the game, I heard a lot of screaming, but I don’t know what to say, but I love them all and I’m so happy to be here,” Ogbonna said. I’m trying to give everything I have to the team, to the community, to the fans. I love them so much.” 

Along with holding the all-time appearance record for the club, Ogbonna also is the all-time goal scoring leader. Coach Wieczorek sang Ogbonna’s praises after the match. 

“When you get the opportunity to work with players with such integrity and class, and [who] cares so much about the club and puts the club first in all their actions and all the things that they do, I’m just very very pleased with him,” Wieczorek said. He’s a very important fixture for the club and I’m very happy to have worked with him and I hope for more time with him because he’s the type of person that the young players need to emulate and look to be someday.” 

AFC Mobile is currently level on points with Pensacola FC in fourth place. The Azaleas welcome the 59ers to The Lip this Saturday night at 7 p.m. 

AFC Mobile Draws New Orleans Jesters 1-1

Photo Credit: Michael Shartava

AFC Mobile drew the New Orleans Jesters 1-1 on Saturday night at the Archbishop Lipscomb Athletic Complex to remain unbeaten at home in the 2021 season.

“The Jesters are a tried and true NPSL club. So the positives – we’ve played them twice, we’ve got two draws. They were competitive games, we’re evenly matched. Maybe they had a little bit more of it today, but again we’ve had enough chances to win games and win this game tonight. So I’m proud of the guys’ effort,” AFC Mobile head coach Steve Wieczorek said. 

It was an even affair in the first twenty minutes of the match with few scoring opportunities for both sides. Mobile’s Ronaldo Fortune provided a spark for the home side when goalkeeper Will Blake played a long ball out of his own box, finding the feet of Fortune in behind the New Orleans defense. Fortune was taken down in the box and the home fans clamored for a penalty, but it was not given. The Azaleas opened the scoring in the 20th minute thanks to some fantastic combination play between Fortune and midfielder Soane Deminguet. Fortune played the ball to Deminguet, who dribbled down the left wing and sent an arching cross back to Fortune at the top of the box. Fortune chested the ball down and struck it with his first touch, sending it soaring over New Orleans’ keeper Lemoy Graham and into the back of the net. 

“Credit to Soane, it was beautiful play leading up to the goal,” Fortune said. “To be fair, he played the ball to my chest and I had a good touch and I didn’t have enough time to dribble or anything, so I just thought ‘you know what? The coaches always tell me to shoot, so why not shoot.’”

Much of the first half saw New Orleans pressing hard to equalize, forcing Mobile’s goalkeeper to make a few spectacular saves to keep the home team’s lead. However, Blake was beaten in the 45th minute when New Orleans’ Sheldon Green sweetly struck a ball at the top of the box and into the Mobile net, making the match 1-1 at the half. 

It was a defensive struggle to start the second half with both teams finding space and scoring opportunities hard to come by. Mobile saw a few chances near the end of the half when Fortune played a slick, low-rolling cross to Iba Ndaw. Ndaw tried to find Fortune to complete the one-two, but the ball was easily cleared by the Jesters. Late in the match, Mobile’s Blake Palmquist was tightly marked and his shot soared over the crossbar. 

The 1-1 draw keeps Mobile in fourth place in the NPSL Gulf Coast Conference standings. The Azaleas will play two home matches this week, welcome the second-place Southern States this Wednesday, and Pensacola FC on Saturday night. New South Alabama head football coach Kane Wommack will join us to do the opening coin toss on Wednesday night. Next Saturday night will be our annual Military Appreciation Night where military personnel are admitted for free with a valid ID. Tickets for both matches can be purchased here.

AFC Mobile Clinches Playoff Berth With 2-1 Over Pensacola FC

AFC Mobile made history on Saturday night by clinching a playoff spot for the first time in the club’s short history. The Azaleas’ 2-1 win over Pensacola FC along with Port City FC’s 4-3 victory over Rangers FC sent AFC Mobile to the playoffs and one step closer to a Gulf Coast Premier League Cup championship.

“All credit to our players for the performance tonight. They knew what was at stake and they performed for 90 plus minutes,” said head coach Steve Wieczorek. “I’m really happy and appreciative for all the support to this group of players from the board, from the fans and at the end of the day making it to the playoffs was the step we needed to take to reward all the hard work for all the people that have been involved in the club over the last couple of years. And it’s because of all those steps and all of that work that preceded us that these players were able to do this tonight.”

It was a slow start to the match for both teams, with neither side having any threating chances. Mobile’s first real chance of the game came in the 26th minute after Tilman Schober played a great ball from the right wing into Arad Lev-Ari. However, Lev-Ari’s low-rolling shot went skirting across the face of goal and just past the left post.

Pensacola responded moments later in the 33rd minute after a booming cross was sent into the box and headed at point-blank range towards Mobile’s goal. Mobile’s goalkeeer, Domenic Nascimben, jumped straight up and palmed the ball away from goal. The ball was then cleared out by Mobile’s Ira Bowens. Nascimben had a strong showing in the final minutes of the first half, making two other crucial saves to keep the match level 0-0.

The Azaleas came out strong in the second half. In the 49th minute, Tilman Schober took a shot that dragged just wide to the left of goal. In the 52nd minute, Batevya Mediateur played a beautiful long ball from midfield that found the feet of Sam Blackburn. Blackburn was brought down in the box, and the Azaleas were awarded a penalty. Arad Lev-Ari stepped up to the spot and coolly slotted home the penalty for Mobile, giving the home team a 1-0 lead.

Schober nearly gave the Azaleas a 2-0 lead in the 60th minute, but once again his shot went just left of the post. Two minutes later, Pensacola almost equalized on a long-range effort from Lyuboslav Vitanov, but his shot went just over the crossbar.

Mobile took the lead in the 76th minute courtesy of an Arad Lev-Ari free kick. Sam Blackburn once again was taken down by the 59ers nearly 30 yards away from goal. Lev-Ari’s free-kick sailed past the keeper and ricocheted off the inside of the left post and into the net to give the Azaleas a 2-0 lead.

Lev-Ari began the season as a crucial midfield player for the Azaleas but has stepped up to fill the shoes of striker Iba Ndaw after Ndaw’s injury. Lev-Ari is one of several players that have made Mobile home for the summer and have been vital for the Azaleas this season. Lev-Ari says that the chemistry between the local players and out of town college players is the reason this season has been so successful.

“From day one the chemistry was so good. Everyone was so nice. We hang out together after practice, after the games, we go out, we go eat together. The local boys here, Memo, Erik, Max, Baba, Iba, Sherman… we have a lot of local players that are really talented as well and they really helped us settle in,” Lev-Ari said. “And a lot of them really stepped up. The fans, the entire city, it’s been a great experience for us, and I think that’s what made us better than the other teams that didn’t make the playoffs.”

Pensacola’s Lyuboslav Vitanov pulled one back for the away team in the 87th minute after heading in the ball off a corner. The 59ers nearly equalized in the 95th minute when Salia Carr cleanly tackled a Pensacola player in the box to prevent them from scoring on a breakaway. Moments later, the referee blew the whistle, and AFC Mobile officially clinched its first playoff berth in club history.

Starting right back Sherman Winchester, who has been with AFC Mobile since the club’s first season, believes there’s something special about this group that led them to the playoffs this season.

“The past few years we’ve always had the potential to do it, but this year it’s just something special with the new boys that have come in, coach as well, it’s just changed the whole vibe of the team, everybody just wants it more. It’s a great feeling,” Winchester said.

When asked if AFC Mobile was going to win the GCPL Cup, Winchester smiled and said, “Every single time man. Every single time, from now on.”

AFC Mobile has one last regular season match before the playoffs next Saturday at Rangers FC. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at Volanta Stadium in Fairhope, Alabama. Make the trip across the bay and support the Azaleas as they attempt to win the the Gulf Coast Premier League’s Eastern Conference.

Resurgent Pensacola FC looks to continue busting brackets in Mobile

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.

Forgotten Coast Cup Primer

What is the Forgotten Coast Cup?

The Forgotten Coast Cup is a competition between AFC Mobile and Port City FC*. The trophy goes to the supporters group of the winning team. If AFC Mobile wins the trophy, the Cup goes to the Causeway Rebellion who hold onto the trophy for one year and display it as they wish. If Port City FC wins the trophy, the Cup goes to the Port City Armada who hold onto the trophy and bragging rights until the next winner is decided.

*formerly Biloxi City FC

How is the winner determined?

The easiest way to determine the winner is the aggregate score of the two legs of the regular season series between Port City FC and AFC Mobile. Whoever scores the most goals over the two games receives the Forgotten Coast Cup.

What if the the series is tied on aggregate?

The first tiebreaker is away goals. Whichever of the two teams has scored the most away goals in the series will be the winner.

What if the away goals are the same?

If the away goals are the same, it goes down to FIFA’s fair play points. measures. Whichever team has the least yellow and red cards in the series will be marked as the winner.

Fair play points

  • first yellow card: minus 1 point
  • indirect red card (second yellow card): minus 3 points
  • direct red card: minus 4 points
  • yellow card and direct red card: minus 5 points

What if it is still tied?

If somehow it is still tied, the result will be determined by an arm-wrestling match between a representative of the Causeway Rebellion and a representative of the Port City Armada.

Forgotten Coast All-Time

YEARWinnerin Gulfportin MobileAggregate
2017AFC MobilePCFC 2-4 AFCMAFCM 1-2 PCFCAFCM 5-4 PCFC
2018Port City FCPCFC 2-1 AFCMAFCM 1-3 PCFCPCFC 5-2 AFCM
2019AFC MobilePCFC 2-1 AFCMAFCM 3-1 PCFCAFCM 4-2 AFCM
2020*N/AN/AN/AN/A
2021Port City FCPCFC 2-0 AFCMAFCM 2-1 PCFCPCFC 3-2 AFCM
*There was no season in 2020 due to the Coronavirus Pandemic

Playoff hopes, Forgotten Coast Cup on the line as AFC Mobile travels to Gulfport

With just three games to go, AFC Mobile still has all to play for. The Azaleas (4-2-1, 14 points) picked up a huge 2-1 victory over Hattiesburg FC last week and briefly topped the Eastern Conference before Tallahassee SC (4-2-1, 14 points) beat Gulf Coast Rangers to reclaim the top spot on goal difference. Meanwhile, a loss this weekend would eliminate Port City FC from playoff contention after a last minute concession handed the defending champions a 5-4 loss against Pensacola.

All-time series: Labeled the “realest rivalry in American soccer” by Non-League America, AFC Mobile and Port City have as checkered a history as any two clubs in the GCPL. Port City holds the overall series edge with a 3-0-2 (9 points) record against Mobile, but Mobile holds the lead for the 2019 Forgotten Coast Cup after a closely contested 3-1 win at home earlier this season. Since that time, the Sounders have remained competitive, but have been unable to claim a playoff spot. In Gulfport, with their playoff lives at stake and a resurgent attacking corps, Port City FC promise to be a tough out for AFC Mobile.

Port City FC Players to Watch: The headliner for Port City FC is 2018 Big 10 lead scorer and future UConn signee Jordan Hall, but midfielder Joao Victor Facanha is the conductor of the Sounders’ recently-prolific attack. Playing on either the wing or as a central attacking midfielder, Facanha could break a stout Mobile defense down if given the time and space to do it.

Matchup to Watch: Hall had his chances earlier in the season against Mobile, driven by Facanha. Potentially one of the most dangerous attacking duos to ever play in the GCPL, Hall will hope to take advantage of the backline of Vlad Margolin and Zubair Taylor, butTaylor and Margolin have anchored a disciplined and stingy backline. This match will come down to whether Margolin, Taylor, and the rest of the Mobile defense can withstand the full storm of a motivated Gulfport attack.

Why this is a big deal? On the field, the match has massive playoff implications. A win by Mobile would see the Gulfport club eliminated at the hands of the Azaleas for the second time in three seasons, and could boost AFC Mobile’s playoff chances dramatically, pending the results from Tallahassee at Pensacola and Rangers at Hattiesburg (both kicking off at 7 p.m. CT).

AFC Mobile plays Port City FC at Herbert William Stadium, 3225 Hancock Ave, Gulfport, Mississippi. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. CDT. Tickets are $10 and kids 12 and under are admitted for free.

AFC Mobile Moves Into Playoff Spot With 2-1 Win over Hattiesburg FC

AFC Mobile pulled into second place in the Eastern Conference with a win over Hattiesburg FC on Saturday.  The Azaleas were able to overcome a rough start, collect three points, and move into a playoff position despite missing two key players in Iba Ndaw and Tilman Schober. 

The Azaleas fell behind early in the 8th minute. Following a free-kick from just outside the penalty area that goalkeeper Domenic Nascimben dove to the ground to save, Hattiesburg FC’s Tim Tuomikowki collected the rebound and chipped it into the net give the visitors a 1-0 lead. 

“We definitely did respond very well tonight. To recover the game after what might be a slowish start, but the reality is I think we well and truly deserved to win tonight regardless of conceding at the start,” said AFC Mobile head coach Steve Wieczorek. 

Mobile attempted to pull one back with chances from the club’s leading all-time leading goalscorer Chisom Ogbonna in the 16th and 19th minutes, but neither shot truly threatened Hattiesburg.

In the 28th minute, Ogbonna was brought down leading to a free-kick just outside the box. The birthday boy, Arad Lev-Ari, stepped up and hit a rocket of a free-kick to equalize for the Azaleas. Usually a force in the midfield for Mobile, Lev-Ari played in the forward position filling in for the injured Ndaw. 

“It’s a new position for me. It’s kind of difficult to adjust to it. I didn’t get the ball as much as I usually get it,” said Lev-Ari, “but I think it worked well for the team. When I got the ball it was in good positions so I could either shoot or pass, so it worked out.”  

“How we tried to penetrate them was a little bit different than how we’ve approached games in the past,” Wieczorek said. “Obviously, Arad certainly delivered with his mobility and his finishing.”

The Azaleas took the lead shortly after the start of the second half when Sam Blackburn slotted home the game-winner from a tight angle. Lev-Ari was involved with his second goal of the night after providing the assist. 

“We made a bit of a change at halftime. Coach Steve was brave and made the decision to move me into an attacking right back position. He gave me a bit of a license to go forward and attack. I managed to find a little bit of space there. Arad, as he’s done so many times this season, managed to play a great pass and then I managed to do the rest,” said Blackburn. 

The Azaleas created a few more chances throughout the second half but couldn’t find the back of the net. In the 72nd minute, Ogbonna played a great ball that nearly found the feet of Lev-Ari, but it was cleared by the visiting team. Despite not scoring, Ogbonna shined for the Azaleas putting in one of his best performances of the season on both sides of the ball. 

The last 15 minutes of the game saw yellow cards shown to Mobile’s Eddie Dakwa and Ogbonna, as well as a chance for Hattiesburg hit the post, but the Azaleas managed to hang on and come away with a 2-1 victory.

The result leaves Mobile tied on points with conference-leaders Tallahassee SC at the top of the table, with the Battle Lions holding the second tie-breaker of goal differential by 2 goals.  Gulf Coast Rangers, who were also tied on points with Mobile and Tallahassee going into Week 7, dropped to third place following a 2-0 loss to Tallahassee.

AFC Mobile will return to action this Saturday, June 29th, as they head to Gulfport to take on Port City FC in the second leg of the Forgotten Coast Cup. The Azaleas beat the reigning GCPL champions earlier this season at the Lip 3-1. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at Herbert Wilson Stadium in Gulfport, Mississippi. 

Playoff Positioning is on the Line as Hattiesburg FC comes to Mobile

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.