By Jordan Spratt
Shreveport, LA – By: Jordan Spratt
Wednesday will mark the 3rd meeting between the only two Louisiana NPSL teams. While both are in different conferences, it’s proof that you don’t need conference alignment to build a rivalry. The chance to hold down your state as the best team, is all the motivation needed for tough tackles and on-field animosity.
The very first meeting between the Rafters and the Jesters took place in New Orleans- it was a chippy game to say the least. A trivial red card was given in the 23rd minute to Stalwart center-half, Sean French. Despite going down 10 men, the Rafters were still aggressive, however, they would suffer their first loss in team history. The score line ended at 2-0, with a brace by Jester’s center forward, Jordan Kinoshi.
The second meeting went as you would expect with the Gold and Blue in front of the home crowd. The Jesters stayed true to their 4-1-4-1 and rarely had legitimate chances at goal while the Rafters remained in attack mode. Opening up the scoring from the spot was former Rafters center-half, Abdullah Rayyan- blasting home the first goal. With the score tied 1-1 Rafters, forward Will Awagu nodded home the game winning euphoric goal. The Rafters would win the home leg but lose on away goals with an aggregate score of 2-3.
Exactly one year later tomorrow, the Rafters have the opportunity to get a leg up on the Derby in front of their faithful fans. With recent form and a cup victory in the review mirror, the Rafters seem more than ready to take full advantage of the home leg start.
“I definitely feel like there’s going to be a rivalry. Especially with them winning the trophy on away goals on our home field- that’s never good. You never want to give up a trophy the way that we did, so to win the game and lose the trophy hurts. We’re going to remind ourselves of what went into the game last year and see if we can take a little revenge in this first leg.”, said Goal Keeper Lance Quini.
With the NPSL season kickoff in full swing and the college season coming to a close, the Rafters have been able fill out the roster with talented players coming in for the first time: John Plumbar, Jordan Langley and Myron Duffy just to name a few.
“This was the first real practice we’ve had with everyone here. We’re definitely starting to gel a little bit better and I’m excited to see how it continues to grow.”, said Mid/Def Aaron Bergman.
This year with new faces comes new tactics, and it’s no secret as a spectator, the new formation is attractive football. Rightfully so, Rafters veterans Bergman and Quini with a smile, stayed tight lipped when asked about the advantages about the new formation.
While the same can’t be said about their twitter account banter ? the Jester’s football team have quality and intelligence. They have boasted players from top flight leagues across the world. It will be interesting to see the battles between the two squads on both flanks as the Jesters look to hold possession out wide.
The coaching staff doesn’t seem too concerned with the rivalry stage but welcomes it to become something of a showcase in Louisiana.
“I know the Jesters take that game very seriously. Last year it was more a deal for the state and the fans but for me it was all about conference play. But we were quite successful in getting two trophies last year and I think this rivalry between us and the Jesters will only become bigger and better. We got Unitus Cup today- it would be great if we could get the Texas Trial cup and the Louisiana Cup. This year it’s definitely one of our goals to win the [Louisiana] cup. The Jesters fans are always great and I’m sure the River Jacks are going to enjoy that.”, said Coach Palmer.
Wednesday’s game at 7pm will be the last home game until May 24th, so be sure to come show who’s the best fans in Louisiana. While the men in Blue and Gold prove who’s the best on the field.
By Jordan Spratt