Tag: University of Mobile

Week of 10/1: Soccer events in the Mobile area

10/2


Spring Hill College vs. Florida Southern College (Women’s)
The Cage, Mobile
12:00 PM

10/5


University of Mobile vs. Faulkner University (Women’s)
The Jungle, Mobile
2:00 PM

 
University of Mobile vs. Faulkner University (Men’s)
The Jungle, Mobile
3:30 PM


Spring Hill College vs. Lee University (Men’s)
Library Field, Mobile
6:00 PM

10/6


Spring Hill College vs. University of Alabama – Huntsville (Women’s)
Library Field, Mobile
3:30 PM

American Outlaws Watch Party: United States Men’s National Team vs. Panama Men’s National Team
O’Daly’s Irish Pub

564 Dauphin Street, Mobile
Kickoff at 6:30 PM

10/7


English Premier League Soccer Saturday’s at O’Daly’s Irish Pub (Watch Party)
564 Dauphin Street, Mobile
Doors Open at 6:30 AM

University of Mobile vs. Dalton State College (Women’s)
The Jungle, Mobile
1:30 PM


University of Mobile vs. Dalton State College (Men’s)
The Jungle, Mobile
4:00 PM

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Week of 9/24: Soccer events in the Mobile area

9/24


University of South Alabama vs. Georgia State (Women’s)
The Cage, Mobile
1:00 PM


Spring Hill College vs. Mississippi College (Men’s)
Library Field, Mobile
3:30 PM

9/26


University of Mobile vs. Concordia College (Men’s)
The Jungle, Mobile
6:30 PM

9/28


University of Mobile vs. University of West Florida (Men’s)
University of West Florida, Pensacola, FL
6:00 PM

9/30


English Premier League Soccer Saturday’s at O’Daly’s Irish Pub (Watch Party)
564 Dauphin Street, Mobile
Doors Open at 6:30 AM

AFC Mobile College Player Updates

Soccer does not sleep. While AFC Mobile is preparing for its upcoming season, its players have been putting in work as well. This past weekend, a few AFC Mobile players took part in NCAA and NAIA games for their respective colleges.
Over in Thomasville, Georgia on September 15th, midfielder Nathan Gillespie played the full 90, had an assist, and scored the game-winning goal in the University of Mobile’s 3-1 win over Thomas University. Four days later, Gillespie made a substitute appearance in the Rams’ 1-1 draw with Georgia Gwinnett College in Lawrenceville, GA. The University of Mobile is currently 4-1-1 and is ranked #8 in the nation for NAIA men’s soccer programs.

 

Up in Americus, Georgia on September 16th, midfielder Baba Mediateur made a substitute appearance in Faulkner University’s 2-1 win over Georgia Southwestern University. Faulkner is currently 5-0-1. 
 
In the more northern climes of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, centerback Pat O’Neal made a substitute appearance for Washington College (Maryland) in its 3-0 loss to Gettysburg. Washington College is currently 2-5-0 across all competitions.

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.

revelers

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.  

revelers
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.

Revelers
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!

Nate Nicholas

Meet AFC Mobile’s head coach Nate Nicholas

From the first kick of practice, Nate Nicholas is in motion. Arms folded, pacing, towering over most of his new AFC Mobile squad, bellowing over the sound of his drills. “Faster,” he says. “Always faster, always more pressure, always more shots.”

“My favorite team is Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp likes to play the way I like to play,” Nicholas said. “He’s a little more committed to it than I am, but I like to high press. I like high energy. I like everything to be fast. I like quick passing like Pep Guardiola, but I don’t like passing for passing’s sake. I want to get forward as quickly as possible, press the ball as quickly as possible, keep it on their side as much as possible. I like to keep the ball and for it to look pretty, but most of all, I like to win.”

Nicholas’s high-speed style goes all the way back to his days as a well-recruited club player. He was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, but moved all over the country to follow his father’s work in the oil fields before settling in Slidell, Louisiana for his high school years. There, he garnered enough attention to draw scholarship offers from William Carey, Belhaven, and The University of Mobile, among others.

“If I had stayed in Hattiesburg, I probably wouldn’t have reached the level I did, but I moved to Texas and California, which are hotbeds for soccer,” Nicholas said. “I played everything growing up. Every season it was… I wanted to be Major League in whatever that was, but I was always naturally gifted toward soccer. I always excelled more in that. Soccer was just always the one that I was the best at.”

As a player, Nicholas brought his father’s oil-field work ethic to bear on his opponents. His natural talent was augmented by his love of physical play, his speed, and his six-foot-plus stature. His desire earned him four years of play at the University of Mobile, where he became a crucial part of the 2002 national championship-winning Rams team.

While at the University of Mobile, Nicholas played under coach Peter Fuller, who would go on to oversee the academy of the Philadelphia Union in MLS, where he also served as a first-team assistant. Fuller’s tutelage shaped his nascent coaching career, when Nicholas took a job at the Alabama School of Math and Science during his junior season with the Rams.

“That was a fun one,” Nicholas said. “It was an interesting group of kids. You never expect to go to a soccer game and hear about flux capacitors and all kinds of crazy science and math stuff.”

Nicholas stayed at ASMS for two seasons before accepting an assistant coach position at UMS-Wright in Mobile, motivated by a desire to stay in his adopted home town. There, his career nearly ran into a dead-end. Desperate to find a head coaching job, he left Old Shell Road for the head coaching job at Baldwin County High School.

“That was one rough, miserable year in my life,” Nicholas said. “They were good kids, but it was an interesting experience in my life. It was a very unique situation. I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into, and I was still young, so leading a program at a school like that, that’s a little bit country, maybe not soccer oriented, was different for me because everywhere I’d been before was fairly soccer-minded.”

His team won just two games. He left after just one season to return to UMS-Wright as the head coach. Ignoring his own doubts about his career, he took over a team newly promoted to the 5A division, into a crowded area dominated by arch-rival St. Paul’s Episcopal, a high school sports juggernaut. In that first season, his team won both fixtures against the Saints en route to a state runner-up finish, dispelling any doubts the burgeoning star might have had about his career.

For the next three years, Nicholas’s team was ranked No. 1 in the state. He won back-to-back state titles, took down 6A powerhouses, and established UMS as one of the top teams in the Southeast. After the 2012 season, Nicholas traveled down Old Shell Road for a new challenge as head coach of the McGill-Toolen Catholic High School boys, who he has since led to a state runner-up finish.

“The crazy thing is, I was the same coach for a 2-15 team as I was for a state runner-up team,” Nicholas said. “It just shows how important players are to a coach. Without good quality players, the best coach is nothing. Even a bad coach can look good with quality players.”

As a coach, Nicholas has won more than 150 games at the high school level, driven by his undying competitive instinct. But his career, including his decision to become the first coach in AFC Mobile’s history, is driven by a deeper desire–to teach his players and pass that competitiveness and resolve on to his teams.

“There’s nothing more annoying to me than seeing a coach that’s in it for himself,” Nicholas said. “That’s very against what I am. I enjoy accolades and winning, and I would be a fool to say I don’t, but I don’t want it to be about me. I want it to be about the team and our goals, not my goals. If I preach to my team that the team’s goals will lead to your individual goals, and I don’t believe that myself, then I’m a hypocrite and I don’t want to do that. I want to practice what I preach.”

His goals for AFC Mobile are simple.

“Win. Win every game,” he said. “I want everybody to be like ‘Oh crap, Mobile’s here, and they’re going to win it, as long as they’re in it.”