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.