By Ryan Whirty (Times Picayune)
Jesters forward Martin Marfo knew exactly how to channel his disappointment against the Texas Dutch Lions in New Orleans' Premier Development League opener Saturday night at Pan-American Stadium.
After Marfo was hauled down in front of the Texas net early in the second half, he threw up his arms in protest, expecting a penalty call. When his pleas were denied and Texas goalkeeper Blake Lander scooped up the ball, Marfo popped up in a sprint and stole the ball from behind a Texas defender.
Marfo then zipped a low liner past diving Lander from about 25 yards out for a goal.
It was sweet redemption for Marfo, a native of Ghana who felt he should have converted the scoring chance he had a few seconds earlier.
"I'm a player of an aggressive nature," said Marfo, who plays for Central Christian College in Kansas during the school year. "Having lost the ball in the 18, I was a little down. I felt I had to get the ball back for the team."
Marfo's score pushed the Jesters' lead to 3-1 in the 51st minute, and New Orleans went on to a 4-2 win. The victory gave the Jesters three points in the PDL's Mid South Division and dropped the Dutch Lions to 1-2-0.
The Jesters throttled the Dutch Lions, especially in the second half after getting a pep talk from coach Kenny Farrell. Farrell said his team, despite carrying a 2-1 lead into intermission, tweaked its formation.
But at the start, the Jesters were a bit wary of the Dutch Lions, a first-year team that was coming off an impressive win against Mid South Division power Laredo.
"We knew they were a good side," Farrell said. "We wanted to feel them out for the first 20 to 25 minutes. We were a little cautious early, trying to figure out their style of play."
By the end of the game, Farrell was thrilled.
"You couldn't ask for more than what these players gave tonight," he said. "This was a fantastic way to start the season. If we could repeat that the rest of the season, we'll have a great season."
New Orleans controlled play early and pressured the Texas defense several times with crisp passing and aggressive tackling.
The Jesters scored in the seventh minute when Lander misplayed a pass as New Orleans midfielder Oliver Hewitt-Fisher charged in. Lander fumbled the ball, and Hewitt-Fisher swiped it and got off a dribbler that found the bottom right of the goal.
But the Dutch Lions tied the score in the 21st minute when Jesters midfielder Sam Hurrell drew a yellow card after a hard tackle on Texas defender Terry Schonk. The resulting direct kick landed at the feet of Dutch Lions winger Fuhrgill Zeldenrust, who maneuvered through a series of defenders and flicked a low drive past Jesters' keeper Patrick Eavenson.
New Orleans regained control in the 40th minute, when midfielder Renan Serafirm converted a cross from Hurrell to give New Orleans its 2-1 edge. The Jesters clinched the contest in the 64th minute. A tackle-filled flurry in front of the Texas goal lead to a free kick by Hurrell, who lofted a shot just inside the upper right post past Lander.
Texas scored a goal in the 77th minute to cut the New Orleans lead to 4-2, but the Jesters continued their aggressive play through the end of the contest and secured the victory.
After the final whistle, Jesters coaches, players and staff chatted with fans and celebrated their solid season opener.
"It's obviously great to get a win to start the season," said Hurrell, who added that his squad was able to convert most of its scoring chances, unlike last season. "It was great to get a win for the fans."