Miami Sports Day

NASL: Jacksonville Armada Gain Point on the Road with Tie

Photo by Jon van Woerden/Fort Lauderdale Strikers

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Armada gained an always crucial point on the road Saturday night in a 1-1 draw with in-state foes, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, at Lockhart Stadium.

For the majority of the match, it looked like the Armada would get out of Fort Lauderdale with three points after defender Matt Bahner scored in the 16th minute and Strikers captain Jean-Marc Alexandre was sent off in the 55th minute after being shown his second yellow card, giving Jacksonville a man advantage.

But the Armada let its guard down for an instant, which was all Fort Lauderdale’s Maicon Santos needed to connect on a header and knot the match in the 74th.

“(We were good in) the first half but clearly not good enough closing it out in the second half,” said Tony Meola, Armada head coach. “(Fort Lauderdale) actually took more possession of the game when they went a man down. We couldn’t find a way; all we wanted to do was move forward and then we got beat over the top and we don’t mark at the back. It’s all correctable stuff but something that can’t happen.”

Bahner gave the Armada its first lead over the Strikers in series history in the 16th minute when his header off a Richie Ryan cross trickled inside the goal. Ryan’s initial corner kick was deflected back to him by Fort Lauderdale’s Gale Agbossoumonde and he was able to regain control of the ball after winning a duel with Agbossoumonde before crossing it into Bahner, whose goal was the first of his NASL career.

The Armada (1W-1D-1L, 4 pts., 7th NASL Spring) proved to be the more efficient team in the first half, winning 80 percent of its tackles and recording 75 percent shot accuracy. Jacksonville notched six total shots in the half and could have easily taken a 3-0 lead into the locker room.

A cross from Matt Fondy in the 23rd minute was placed into a perfect spot for Alhassane Keita right in front of the goal, but his header attempt sailed over the goal. Junior Sandoval had another cross in the 43rd minute that missed a charging Fondy by inches in front of the goal.

Jacksonville received a gift in the 55th after Alexandre committed a hard foul and was sent off for his second yellow, and initially it looked like the Armada would able to put the match away. The Armada had multiple breakaway opportunities but were called offside in addition to having numerous close-range free kick opportunities sail just over the goal.

But in the 74th minute, Fort Lauderdale’s Ramón Nuñez gained control of the ball at midfield and launched a long ball to Jose Angulo, who shook the challenging Armada defender Bryan Burke and crossed it in to Santos, who headed it past a diving Miguel Gallardo.

Despite it being a moment of frustration for Jacksonville, the Armada turned up the urgency and continued to pressure the shorthanded Strikers. In the 85th, Sandoval had a blast off a Burke throw-in from the top right corner of the box nearly find its way in, but Strikers goalkeeper Bruno was able to make the save.

Armada forward Charles Eloundou, who subbed on for Pascal Millien in the 65th, followed it up moments later when he had a laser attempt miss to the left. He had another rocket attempt in stoppage time when his shot from distance sailed just over the goal.

Jacksonville’s final attempt to retake the lead came in the last minute of stoppage time when Alex Dixon was taken down just outside of the penalty area. The Armada’s free kick from 20 yards out was taken by none other than Mechack Jérôme, whose attempt just missed the bottom left corner of the goal.

Fort Lauderdale (0-2-1, 2 pts., 9th NASL Spring) trailed Jacksonville in total shots, 15-9, and also conceded possession, 47.4 percent to the Armada’s 52.6 percent. Jacksonville also won 83.3 percent of its tackles compared to the Strikers’ 57.1 percent.

“On the road and bringing home a point with the way we played in the last 20 minutes, it’s not the best, but it’s not the worst either,” Meola said. “We’ve got some things to correct.”

With the draw, the Armada now has four points in the Coastal Cup standings and increased its lead to two points over the Miami FC and Strikers, who have two points each. It was also the first time in series history the Strikers did not defeat the Armada.

Jacksonville will return home for a 6:30 p.m. ET matchup with FC Edmonton on Wednesday, May 4 in what will be Star Wars Night at Community First Park at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.

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