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Photo courtesy: Aiden Armstrong

Asheville City Wins South Central Division With 4-0 Victory Over Athens FC

By Mitch Stone, 07/03/24, 12:00PM HST


Photo courtesy: Aiden Armstrong

On Tuesday night, the men of Asheville secured their second straight South Central Division title with a 4-0 victory over last-place Athens FC. The Blues have dominated the division since the very first match, racking up 28 points while scoring 29 goals, the highest in the league. 

Simon Carlson’s excellent performance highlighted tonight’s win, in which he compiled two goals and an assist. Izaiah Vignali also had himself a top-notch performance, recording a goal and two assists. The midfield duo have combined for 6 goals so far this season, making them one of the most dangerous partnerships in the league. 

Despite the favorable scoreline, the Blues initially struggled throughout the first 30 minutes of the match. Athens proved to be difficult to break down, maintaining a compact backline while winning physical battles in the midfield. 

Tuesday’s action kicked off in the 12th minute with a dangerous free kick from Athens at the top of the box. With composure, Corey Hart curled a strike towards the bottom right corner,  Johnny Mennell to extend for a great save. 

Just 7 minutes later, Carlson Wood nearly scored his second goal of the season following some wonderful build-up play by the Blues. Within his own half, Luke Jeffus played a perfect long ball to Wood, who took a few touches around the defender, executed a one-two with Sergio Ors Navarro, and launched a shot across goal, prompting goalkeeper Dagoberto Romero to make an excellent save. 

By the halfway point of the first half, Asheville had finally settled into the game, controlling much of the possession while building up from the back. In the 36th minute, Carlson finally put the Blues ahead on the back of an outstanding assist by Vignali. Receiving the ball out wide, the Fairview native skilfully dribbled into the box, quickly moving past his defender and slipping a cross into the middle of the box, where Carlson tapped it in to make it 1-0 to the Blues. 

Simon Carlson goal, 36th minute vs. Athens United

At the end of the half, Asheville almost found their second goal after a poor giveaway by the Athens backline. Filling in for leading goalscorer Rodrigo Robles, who signed for the Greenville Triumph earlier Tuesday afternoon, Sergio Ors Navarro swiftly received a ball from Vingali and carried it into the box, firing a shot just wide. 

Six-minutes into the second half, Athens came close to leveling the score yet again. Speeding down the wing, Cherif Tamar whipped in a dangerous cross towards the back post, finding Alejanrdo Contrera, whose towering header slipped through the hands of Mennell and into the back of the net. However, the goal was disallowed due to a foul on the Xavier goalkeeper. 

Jonny Mennell fouled, 46 min vs. Athens United

In the 59th minute, Mennell pulled off another exceptional save to deny Inaki Moreno Insuasti from leveling the score. In the build-up, the Athens left winger patiently dribbled towards Dylan Kropp, performed a nifty step over, dashed into the box, and blasted a dangerous shot across goal, forcing Mennell to make a fingertip save. 

For the remaining minutes of the match, Asheville was in complete control, comfortably executing one-touch passes across all three lines to create several promising opportunities. It didn't take much longer for the Blues to net their second goal of the evening thanks to a fantastic combination between Carlson and Vignali. Receiving a pass from Mao Wong in the center of the pitch, Carlson took a cheeky touch forward, laying it off for Vignali who, with great speed, dribbled all the way into the box and slipped it past Romero to double the lead. 

Izaiah Vignali goal, 69th minute vs. Athens United

In the 73rd minute, Johnny Mennell proved yet again why he’s one of the top goalkeepers in the league, making a third incredible save to prevent Athens from narrowing the lead to one. Athens right winger Alhaji Tambadu curled a dipping strike from a free kick that seemed destined for goal, but Mennell had other plans. With cat-like reflexes, the division’s clean sheet leader fully extended to make a fingertip save, bringing the Asheville faithful to their feet. 

Diego Ossa increased the lead to three in the 85th minute with his first goal of the season following a move from Universidad Católotica. New addition Sven Rempel made an immediate impact off the bench, delivering a perfectly executed cross to the back post, where Ossa headed the ball in to essentially secure the division for Asheville. 

Diego Ossa goal, 86th minute vs. Athens United

While most teams would sit back and wait for the final whistle with a 3-0 lead, the Blues weren’t finished quite yet. As Lewis Johnson looked to turn and shoot in the box, he was abruptly fouled from behind, earning a penalty for Asheville. Stepping up to the spot, Carlson capped off his 10/10 performance with a cool finish into the right corner to seal the brace and 4-0 victory. 

Simon Carlson goal, 88th minute vs. Athens United

And just like that, the men of Asheville clinched the South Central Division. As the final whistle blew, the champions rushed the field, joining the South Slope Blues in celebration to lift the trophy. 

“We are really proud of the boys and this is an opportunity to just be really thankful for the season. I really admire the boys for trusting me and trusting the club and I just want them to enjoy tonight,” said Coach Scott Wells following the massive win. 

2024 South Central Division Champions

With two matches left to play in the regular season, Asheville is only three points away from last season’s point total (31). However, the job’s not finished quite yet, as they host multiple playoff matches on June 19th and June 21st in their search for their first-ever USL 2 championship. 

The women also kick off their playoff debut this FRIDAY (June 5, 2024) against Florida Elite Soccer Academy at 7:30pm at Greenwood Field.


With a victory, the Blues would advance to a quarterfinal matchup under the lights on Sunday night.