Miami Sports Day

NASL: Edmonton Sinks Jacksonville Armada, 1-0


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Despite a dominant performance on the stat sheet, the Jacksonville Armada FC couldn’t break through and suffered a 1-0 loss to FC Edmonton in front of 3,519 at Community First Park at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville on Wednesday night.

Eddies defender Pape Diakite scored the winner in the 64th, when he connected on a volley following a corner. That strike handed the Armada its first home loss of the season, dropping it to 1W-1D-2L overall in head coach Tony Meola’s first season at the helm.

The first half was relatively quiet, with only one shot on goal. That came in the 12th minute, when Jemal Johnson controlled the ball with his back to goal near the top of the 18-yard box. He played a perfectly weighted through-ball for Derek Gebhard, who went one-on-one with the keeper, but his shot from a tight angle rattled off Matt VanOekel’s legs for the save.

That was the only time the Armada’s combination play through the middle sparked a solid chance.

Jacksonville’s other strategy was to send fullbacks Matt Bahner and Shawn Nicklaw down the wing, but neither were able to deliver impactful crosses, and their attacking order nearly led to an Eddies goal.

While they surged forward, center backs Tyler Ruthven and Mechack Jerome split out wide, and holding midfielders Richie Ryan and Kevan George dropped back to fill in on the back line. In the 26th, George was in that hole and lost the ball to Edmonton’s Nik Ledgerwood, then had to foul the midfielder and take a yellow card to prevent a scoring chance.

It was a disappointing start. The Armada controlled 69 percent of possession, out-passed the visitors 277-126, led in pass percentage 85-63 and even won 62 percent of duels against their larger opponents. But with all that, they were out-shot 4-3 and mustered just one on goal.

After the break, both squads came out with more intent to score. Bahner forced a save with a low shot after tip-toeing through the midfield, and Edmonton’s Albert Watson nearly found Jake Keegan at the back post with a smooth volley.

Hoping to add some juice to the attack, Meola brought on Alhassane Keita and the speedy Charles Eloundou for Pascal Millien and Derek Gebhard.

Instead, Edmonton found the net.

In the 64th, Pablo Cruz whipped in a corner that took a slight touch off Daryl Fordyce, then fell to a wide-open Diakite on the back side. The 6-foot-4 defender connected on a laser volley that left ‘keeper Miguel Gallardo with no chance.

Unlike their defensive first half, the Eddies then opened up and went for more.

Keegan forced a save with a header in the 67th, Plumhoff drove a low shot at Gallardo in the 69th, and the Armada keeper had to come out and collide with Jason Plumhoff to punch away a cross in the 71st.

The Armada caught a break in the 79th, when Matt Fondy won a free kick just outside the box in an area that has come to be known as the “Jerome Zone” due to the Jacksonville defender’s strong leg.

But with Jerome to his left, Ryan stepped up and blasted his kick into the stands to end the threat.

The Armada will be back in action on Saturday when it hosts NASL expansion side Rayo OKC at 7 p.m. in what will be Pride Night at Community First Park

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