Tallahassee Soccer Club welcomed the New Orleans Jesters last Thursday for a highly anticipated matchup between the two of the top clubs in the conference at Gene Cox Stadium. Historically, the Jesters boast an impressive resume, having appeared in five of the last seven NPSL conference championships. The visitors were coming off a confidence building 2-1 win over the Jacksonville Armada U-23. TLHSC were also coming off a historic 1-0 win over Southern States.
Both clubs came out looking to attack in front of the 500+ crowd. Bilal Mihoubi, Gaku Nishimura, and Stafford Dowling led the offensive charge for the Battle Lions in the early stages. Conner Parry and Kevyn Lo worked the midfield to create opportunities to score. Unfortunately for Tallahassee, Jesters keeper Alex Hare did well to keep the Battle Lions out of the goal. He saved a shot by Mihoubi, and two headers from Dowling and company.
On the other side, Mark Lesher and Trice Smith teamed up to contain the Jesters' Sheldon Green. Green had scored in all three of NOLA’s wins, but the Tallahassee defense made sure to lock him up through the first half with the score 0-0 at the break.
The Tallahassee offense went back to work in the second half with Nishimura involving himself more as the focal point of the offense. The back and forth nature of the match continued until the 60th minute when Alex Blanche earned a second yellow card and was sent off. Now a man up, TLHSC renewed the attack, but were unable to break through. The Jesters were able to create some chances but Marc Kouadio kept the visitors from scoring.
There were additional chances for both clubs including a Zuri Robertson rocket shot from 20 yards out in the 70th minute. Ultimately, New Orleans managed to stave off the Battle Lions efforts despite being a man down for 40 minutes. The draw kept both clubs near the top of the table. Tallahassee begins a three-match road trip this Saturday against Southern States at 8:30 PM as they look to extend their undefeated season.
To the Goal!
A history of scoreless losses in close matches was what Tallahassee Soccer Club looked to change in Saturday’s match against Southern States SC (U-23) at Gene Cox Stadium in Tallahassee. The highly esteemed program from Mississippi traveled to Tallahassee to face the underdog Battle Lions and were met by new faces Bilal Mihoubi and Alejandro Padilla. Tied for first in the Gulf Coast Conference, TLHSC donned blackout uniforms in what ended up being a historic match for the club, as the Battle Lions earned a 1-0 victory over the visitors.
Southern States SC started the match on the front foot though the TLHSC defense was up to the challenge. The Battle Lions effectively turned aside the initial offensive onslaught with good positioning, and matched South State’s physicality, preventing any early production from the opposition. Coach Joel Di Castri’s game plan seemed to be to contain Southern States attacker Hoyos, and the club did so through the leadership of Zhuri Robertson and Padilla.
TLHSC eventually moved into the attack with Bilal Mihoubi shining in his debut with a sequence of shifty dribbling as Tallahassee looked to move the ball upfield in a back-and-forth battle early. Defensively, Trice Smith came up with huge stops on the other end for the Battle Lions. Hoyos did get off a good shot near the end of the first half but it was saved by Marc Kouadio to end the half with the score tied 0-0.
Coming out in the second half, the TLHSC offense looked better with Kevyn Lo, Connor Parry, Staford Dowling, and Johnny Fitzgerald moving well to create good looks for others. Despite forays for both clubs, neither side was able to convert. For the opposition, two close misses off headers from Hoyos and a shot Kouadio tipped off the top post kept the match scoreless. Unfortunately for TLHSC, Kouadio came off soon thereafter due to an injury. Cameron Kostrzewa replaced him in goal.
Midway through the second half, Southern States poured on the attack but were unable to find a way through the Battle Lions defense. TLHSC worked back into the attack and Lo took advantage of a Southern States blunder to push the ball upfield unleashing a promising shot at the Mississippi keeper, Gabriel Perrotta. The keeper deflected his save out of bounds, giving TLHSC a set piece opportunity in the 85th minute.
The corner bounced out of the box but TLHSC retained possession. The ball was sent outside the box where it was chipped back in right to the keeper, but Perrotta let it go through his hands and Alejando Padilla found himself with the ball and an open net. Padilla tapped it in to give the Battle Lions a late 1-0 lead.
Southern States pushed for the equalizer creating scoring opportunities as the clock continued to tick.. A couple of headers and two near-goal bicycle kicks in extra time were handled by Kostrzewa and the Battle Lions defense stood strong to give TLHSC and the supporters in attendance the first home win of the season.
The Battle Lions are unbeaten on the season with a 2-0-2 (W-L-D) record. Next up, TLHSC hosts GCPL's Sowegans SC in a friendly match at Gene Cox Stadium on Wednesday, May 24 at 7 p.m.
Tallahassee Soccer Club traveled to Mike Gavlak Stadium to take on Florida Roots Saturday night in Panama City Beach. The Battle Lions were able to build off of last week’s offensive performance with a 2-1 win on the road. Roots are a team which TLHSC knows all too well. In the all time series against the Roots – prior to Saturday night – Tallahassee is 1-2-1 and in those games the two teams scored 4.5 on average.
The match got off to a slow start with both clubs were unable to generate any offense and shared possession. It wasn’t until darkness draped over the once blue Panama City skyline, that the players turned up the pace. Tallahassee railed off a close miss early, but then found themselves behind immediately as the Roots effectively worked the ball back upfield and drilled a shot under the top post to take a 1-0 lead.
After the goal, TLHSC grew into the match and created more chances forcing the Roots to play deeper in defense. Despite a fantastic corner kick and great one-touch passing, the Battle Lions were unable to put the ball in the net. Opposing keepers Cameron Kostrzewa and Haakon Utesch both put on a showing of grit through technique. Shots were evenly deflected in dives, punches, and kicks and the defenses held. Missed opportunities led to tempers flaring, though at halftime, the score remained 1-0 Roots.
The second half picked up where the first half left off tactically, though Tallahassee eventually found a way to turn the offensive pressure back up. The Battle Lions earned a penalty in the 55th minute and Stafford Dowling drilled the ball into the bottom left corner of the goal scoring the equalizer.
The goal gave TLHSC life, and the players picked up the pace. An excellent long ball sent Kevyn Lo behind the last of the Roots defense. Lo scored his second goal of the season putting the ball into the back of the goal. A cluster of yellow jerseys paraded Lo down the sidelines in celebration.
Tallahassee was able to keep pressure on Florida Roots the rest of the match to see out the match. Tallahassee earned a win for the first time since a victory over AFC Mobile on July 10, 2021. I’m certain the ride back to Tallahassee was a fun one.
The Battle Lions are on the road again next Saturday May 13 at 7 p.m. against Pensacola FC.