Tag: South Alabama Soccer Association

AFC Mobile United Wins 3-0 Over Gulf Coast Rangers Reserves

AFC Mobile United won its first ever game on Wednesday night, beating the Gulf Coast Rangers Reserves 3-0. 

“I’m very happy, very proud of them they got the win ultimately and that’s what we talked about pregame.” AFC Mobile United coach Ruben Risco said. “Obviously there are some kinks we have to work out, but overall the camaraderie, positivity, the intensity was there tonight.” 

The Rangers started the game on the front foot, challenging Mobile goalkeeper and captain Dillion Lowe. The tide turned after Foday Carr played the ball behind the Rangers defense onto the feet of Griffin Tucker who slotted the ball home and opened the scoring for the Azaleas near the midpoint of the first half.

The Azaleas’ second goal came from Suleiman Carr, who had an excellent game challenging the Rangers defense on the wing. Carr’s goal came on an assist from Greg Hosford, who came off a stellar performance from the first team against Real United FC last weekend. 

AFC Mobile United’s third and final goal came after Roman Causse scored a spectacular scissor-kick goal off a corner kick.

The night also saw the return of Dawson Jellenc and Pat O’Neal, two cornerstones of the inaugural AFC Mobile roster, as the pair work their way back to match fitness.

The first team will return to The Lip this weekend to face the Gulf Coast Rangers first team. Kickoff is at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 9th at the Archbishop Lipscomb Athletic Complex located at 3610 Michael Boulevard in Mobile. Tickets are $5 and children 12 and under are admitted free. Next Saturday’s game will also be Military Appreciation Night. All veterans and active duty military personnel will be admitted free of charge. Pregame festivities begin at 6:30

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Fan Reaction: Nervous Energy

No one knew exactly what to expect at the home opener for AFC Mobile. But the AFC Mobile’s supporters group, the Causeway Rebellion, and its Red Leader were exceptionally nerve wracked awaiting the first ever game.

In this Fan Reaction, supporter Michael Shartava recounts how the first ever AFC Mobile match surpassed his own expectation and how a soccer culture in need of an outlet took hold and took off.

AFC Mobile is the epitome of a grassroots club.

I wake up early on a Mother’s Day Sunday. Typically I like to sleep in on weekends, but am wide awake today. I am nervous as hell… On my TV Barcelona has won 2-0 but today is not about the Blaugrana or professional football. Today AFC Mobile plays its inaugural match in the Gulf Coast Premier League against our neighbor, Pensacola’s Gulf Coast Texans (currently rebranded as Pensacola FC). The first high end football match in Mobile for more than ten years.

AFC Mobile is the epitome of a grassroots club. Owned and operated by local enthusiasts, AFCM has given the footballing community a sense of identity and camaraderie. Our players were recruited from the South Alabama Soccer Association (adult city league) and area schools. Volunteers and owners’ families make up the stadium and club staff. The board of directors even reached out to every youth club in Mobile and invited their kids to mascot for the team during pregame introductions. My seven-year-old nephew will always remember walking out with AFC Mobile for their first match ever.

There is a ragtag group of scoundrels and low lives for a supporters group, it’s called the Causeway Rebellion; I was drafted in as Red Leader (Red, cause I’m Russian, get it?). At The Lip, our stadium, flags fly for every nationality (what’s up to the Serengeti Boys) in our club and an all inclusive attitude is promoted. During the season we honored our little hero Bradley Lowery after his fight with neuroblastoma and always speak out loudly against all forms of racism and extremism; its a powerful outlet.

That is what got me so nervous this morning. Will anyone show up to the match? Can we create an atmosphere of support and energy for our lads? Will Gold Leader bring any Malört?

Nervous energy…

Cup of coffee. Nicotine. Chill out man, it will be good!

I arrive to the stadium an hour and a half early with my nephew to get ready for the walkouts and there is already a crowd forming in the stands… holy crap this is going to be big. Nervous energy turns into excitement and adrenaline, I feel this pressure cooker about to blow!

The match flies by in the blink of an eye. There are over 800 fans, singing, screaming, chanting, and willing our team forward. The energy in the stadium makes the hairs on my arms stand up. Mobile “turn’t up” with drums, trumpets, CONCH SHELLS, vuvuzelas, loud speakers, two poles, banners, you name it! The noise was unreal. Somewhere in the chaos, Moises Muhubao scored our first goal ever and was eternally immortalized in lore. It was like we won the Champions League! The owners were crying tears of joy! An amazing evening.

Afterward I had a moment to reflect on the day and what it meant to me. I came to the conclusion that this is what has been missing from my life. Football has been my love since childhood, but my Russian parents wanted me to play chess and study, ha, ha, ha. I went to my first match (Bundesliga, 2006) when I was an adult but I have been a passionate fan of Brazil’s Seleção since World Cup USA in ’94 and FC Barcelona shortly after that (most of my favorite Brazilians played at Barca). I was a long distance fan. A lone wolf…

After Mother’s Day 2017, I gained a pack of crazy, like-minded FANATIC brothers and sisters. A sense of identity and belonging. The coming together of the African, Latino, and Balkan immigrant communities with old Mobile. I can sing and chant at home matches and take away-days with the Causeway Rebellion on The War Wagon; I was meant to do this!

I hope you’re ready for next season, because we are going to be louder, stronger and still crazy as hell in those stands. There will be big tifo displays, choreography, and of course high decibels of noise.

Join the Rebellion!

Red Leader, out.

#AlwaysMobileALwaysHome
#AFCMobile
#CausewayRebellion

The Mobile Revelers: Mobile’s Original Minor League Soccer Team

There’s no doubt that Mobile is a soccer town. The city is home to high quality men’s and women’s college soccer programs, a number of competitive local high school teams, quality youth clubs, and a burgeoning minor league team. However, AFC Mobile is not the first team to represent the city of Mobile. From 1995 to 1997, between the 1994 World Cup in the United States and the dawn of Major League Soccer, the Mobile Revelers staked a claim as one of the south’s best clubs.

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The team was the brainchild of former University of South Alabama men’s coach Roy Patton. Patton approached local soccer enthusiasts Steve Clements and Ken Kvalheim to form a new professional soccer team to play in the United Systems of Independent Soccer Leagues (USISL) Professional League, a multi-regional league sanctioned as a Division III Professional League by the U.S. Soccer Federation. The USISL was a predecessor to the modern day United Soccer League (USL) and Premier Development League (PDL). 

“At the time, the South Alabama [NCAA] program was just on fire and of course Mobile College [NAIA] had a really great program as well. Pretty much all our players came from those two schools,” Clements said. Patton’s goal was to give his college players and other local players the opportunity to continue playing soccer at a high level.  “We hated the fact that they graduated and left us,” Clements said. “That was one of Roy’s primary goals was to give these players an opportunity to continue playing soccer at a level that they might be seen in the bigger leagues.”

The Revelers roster, much like the roster of the South Alabama team at the time, was made up of players from across the globe. “We were not that international, compared to my 1995 season at South [Alabama], but we came from South Africa, England, Scotland, Denmark, Trinidad, and the US,” said former Mobile Reveler left back Søren Jørgensen.

Jørgensen was from Copenhagen, Denmark and earned a scholarship to play for South Alabama. Unfortunately, his high school credits did not properly transfer to the American system and he was unable to meet NCAA eligibility requirements. But he had fallen in love with the Mobile soccer community, and he decided to stay in Mobile and play for the Revelers.

Mobile Reveler left back Søren Jørgensen

Jørgensen said that even though the core of Revelers players graduated from South Alabama in 1994 or ’95, it wasn’t hard to break into the group. “It was easy to enter the group,” Jørgensen said. “As long as you can play some good soccer and drink a beer afterwards.”

Patton originally intended for the team to play its matches at South Alabama. He would coach the team at home and Tom Bierster, his assistant coach, would coach the team on the road. That plan never came to fruition, as behind-the-scenes politics at South Alabama could not be worked out.  “There were issues… I don’t really know exactly everything on that level, but at one point, Joe Gottfried went to Roy and said, ‘look, you can’t play at South… I’m getting too much pressure and if you coach this team, you may not have a job with the college,'” Bierster said.

Ultimately, Bierster took the reigns as the head coach of the Revelers heading into their inaugural season. Soon after, Patton left South Alabama to take the head job at the University of Vermont. He would eventually return to the Port City as the head coach of the University of Mobile.

Despite the talent in the city, not everyone in Mobile embraced soccer. This became apparent during the Revelers search for a home field.  “Some people didn’t understand it at all,” Kvalheim said. “I remember we were looking to do some practice, or some tryouts on the field – and I’ll never forget – a football coach told us that the soccer players would damage his field.”

Ironically, the Revelers finally found a home outside of Mobile at the Fairhope Municipal Soccer Complex, a venue that quickly gained a reputation as one of the nicest facilities in the USISL.  “My second season, everyone wanted to come to Fairhope because they heard how beautiful the field was, and it was,” Bierster said.  

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Mobile Revelers Inaugural Game Roster Sheet

With a stadium deal in place and a roster full of players ready to play, the only thing the club was missing was a moniker. “We wanted to make something that was synonymous to who we are,” Kvalheim said. “We were the first sports team to say ‘we need to capitalize on what makes us unique to the region, what makes us unique to being Mobile,’ and ‘Revelers’ just worked out.”

The Revelers finished their inaugural season in second place in the Southeast Division and were eliminated from the playoffs in the Divisional Semifinal round.  “We got a little bit known out there because our first season we were better than .500 and we got people wanting to come play for us,” Bierster said.  One of the players that Mobile added was Bill Elliott. Elliott is currently the head coach at the University of West Florida and the NPSL’s Chattanooga FC. Elliott said that the core of South Alabama and University of Mobile players were crucial to building the team’s success in the first year.  “All those guys knew each other really well…I think even when they were in college in the offseason they played together, you know, pick up games,” Elliott said. “By the time I joined they had a very good core and I was fortunate enough to be able to work my way into that and become a part of it and really enjoy my time playing there.”

Elliott took the University of West Florida job in 1995 and has been there ever since. He has lead the Argonauts to nine conference championships. He took the managerial position at Chattanooga FC in 2011 and has been the runner-up in three of the last five NPSL National Championships. Elliott thinks the biggest change in the American lower league landscape is the amount of professionalism shown from the clubs at this level.

“In those days, everything in the league was very ‘Bull Durham-ish.’ I think now there’s a lot more professionalism in those leagues… I think there was a lot more gimmicks and minor league baseball marketing tricks to kinda get people out,” Elliott said.  Mobile wasn’t above using wild promotions to draw fans out to the stadium. The Revelers were able to draw 2000 fans to a match by bringing the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders in town to perform a halftime show.

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Mobile Revelers with Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders

Bierster said that Mobile’s greatest game came against one of the USISL’s powerhouses, the Minnesota Thunder. The Thunder had won four consecutive league championships and boasted the likes of future MLS star, Bundesliga regular, and U.S international Tony Sanneh as well as current Minnesota United sporting director Manny Lagos and his brother Gerard.

The Thunder were playing in New Orleans on a Friday night before making the trip to Fairhope on Saturday. Bierster drove to the match in New Orleans and devised a game plan that took the Thunder to the wire. Instead of going at the Thunder head-to-head, Bierster told the Revelers to absorb pressure from the Thunder attack before trying to hit them on the counter. The Thunder found themselves shell-shocked. The Revelers took the game to double-overtime and were mere seconds from a shootout when Tony Sanneh turned a Revs’ defender, launched a shot with his left foot, and won the game 1-0 with five seconds left.  News of the Revelers’ unexpected success against the Thunder spread quickly. Days after the last-second loss, Bierster received a phone call from Bob Gansler, former manager of the US Men’s National Team during the 1990 World Cup in Italy and the head coach of the Milwaukee Rampage at the time, asking Bierster how his Revelers took the Thunder to double-overtime.

The Revelers returned to the playoffs in the 1996 season, but failed to move beyond the Conference Semifinals. Bierster left the team following the 1996 season. The Revelers did not qualify for the playoffs in 1997, which turned out to be their final season.

“The biggest problem with professional sports from our standpoint back then was that we were required by the league, and by conscience frankly, to provide these kids with workers comp insurance and the cost of it became absolutely oppressive to say the least,” Clements said. “With that in mind, with the travel that was involved, we simply couldn’t generate enough money between ticket sales and sponsorships to make it viable.”

The Revelers only lasted for three years in the Mobile area, but their impact on the game in the area can be felt today.  “I really believe that what we did, we created an opportunity to expose a lot of people to a sport that they didn’t know very much about,” Kvalheim said.

AFC Mobile will be paying tribute to the city’s original minor league soccer team by holding Mobile Revelers Night this Saturday, July 1st. Kickoff against Gaffa FC of Jackson, Mississippi is at 7:00 p.m. All tickets are only $5, and kids 12 and under are admitted free. AFC Mobile is also auctioning off an original limited edition Mobile Revelers Inaugural Season Commemorative Poster.  All auction proceeds will be donated to USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital. Click here to participate in the auction. Come out and honor Mobile’s soccer history while supporting your local grassroots soccer team!

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.

LPL Map
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.

 

 

Legion, Vinco take SASA Division One and Two Title

Mobile, Alabama — Roughly 80 fans filled the stands at Sage Park Sunday night to watch the South Alabama Soccer Association crown a new champion and see a team get promoted from Division Two to Division One.

In Division One, Legion FC knocked off J Adams in a tightly contested affair. Eddie Duarte scored the lone goal of the game just after the 30th minute mark to give Legion a 1-0 lead. J Adams nearly equalized at the end of the first half, but the shot went sailing just over the crossbar.

J Adams was on the front foot for most of the second half, pressing to snatch an equalizer. Legion bunkered in and were able to ward off attack after attack from the trailing team. Around the 60th minute Legion was called for a handball in the box, but J Adams couldn’t convert the penalty.

After 90 minutes, Legion keeper Alejandro Ojeda came away with a clean sheet and Legion FC were crowned SASA Champions.

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In the Division Two title game, Vinco FC came back from a halftime deficit to beat Mobile Rovers 4-2. Mobile Rovers scored the first goal to open the game up. VFC’s Garrett Ost equalized to bring the game 1-1, but the Rovers scored once more directly before the first half ended to take a 2-1 lead heading into the second.

From that point on, it was all VFC. Russell Long scored a brace, and the Rovers scored an own goal as Vinco took home the the Division 2 Championship, which earns them a promotion to SASA’s Division One for the next season.

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