Miami Sports Day

Armada Triumphs in 2-1 Open Cup Extra Time Win Over Battery

Photo by SE Sports Media

The Jacksonville Armada FC has its first U.S. Open Cup win.

After 108 minutes of mostly dominant possession and attacking chances, the Boys in Blue got a deserved winner via Alhassane Keita and held on to win their third-round matchup against the USL’s Charleston Battery in extra time at Jacksonville University’s Southern Oak Stadium.

They’ll advance to host Orlando City SC (MLS) in the fourth round on June 15, a team they defeated 2-1 in the preseason.

After first-half goals from Patrick Otte and Charleston’s Chris Tsonis, the teams played to a dead heat through regular time and needed an extra half hour to settle the score.

There, two substitutes combined for the winner as Alex Dixon flicked a Junior Sandoval pass on to Keita, and the Guinean beat Battery ‘keeper Odisnel Cooper from close range.

The win gives the Armada two strong results in a row, following Saturday’s 1-1 draw against the undefeated Indy Eleven in NASL play. The team’s four-game run of shutout losses in May seemed a distant memory on Wednesday, when it was hunting for goals from the start.
Bryan Burke started at right back due to a concussion Matt Bahner suffered against Indy, and he made sure the Armada came out as the aggressors.

Burke made two early runs that led to shots for Matt Fondy (a header, wide) and Danny Barrow (a shot, saved), and in the seventh, it seemed he would open the scoring when he came flying through the box to get on the end of a corner kick, but Cooper came up with a miraculous save to keep it out.

The Armada kept the pressure on and got an overdue reward in the 17th, when Barrow and Fondy played successive back heels to set up Otte, who came charging through the box and coolly chipped the ball into the right side of the net for his second career Open Cup goal (2013 with Ventura County Fusion).

But the lead wasn’t to last. Five minutes later, Charleston forward Romario Williams drew three Armada players to the right side of the field and sent in a ball for Tsonis, who was one on one with center back Beto Navarro. Tsonis controlled the ball on his chest to get past Navarro, then buried the ball in the bottom left.

While the Armada did get one more good chance — a Sandoval strike off the outside of the post — the equalizer took some wind out of their sails until after the half.

Sandoval nearly took the lead back in the 48th, when he put an outside-footed shot on frame that Cooper had to leap to tip over the crossbar.

And soon after, the visitors found momentum.

Charleston midfielder Maikel Chang put free kick into the wall on the 62nd, but left back Emmanuel Adjetey hit the rebound with a vicious curling shot that fortunately swerved to ‘keeper Miguel Gallardo. After an ensuing Armada attack was stymied by a Burke giveaway, Williams took off the other way and forced another Gallardo save.

The final 20 minutes of regulation seemed an inevitable march toward extra time, save for an 82nd-minute chance that Chang blasted high from the middle of the box.

Though the Armada dominated the stat sheet in regular time, with 18 shots (four on target), 66 percent of possession, a 14-2 edge in corners and advantages in both passes (444-239) and passing percentage (81-64), they couldn’t find the winner and had to roll the dice in the club’s first-ever extra time appearance.

There, the Armada leaned on Sandoval and three subs (Keita, Alex Dixon and Derek Gebhard) for their attacking power, and all four helped create chances.

Sandoval nearly set up a goal in the 93rd when he found Shawn Nicklaw at the back post. But while Nicklaw had time to pick his spot, he rushed his shot wide.

Dixon came close in the 98th with a darting run from the left, when he beat two defenders and went to the ground against a third, but his penalty shout went unheard. A minute later, Gebhard fed Keita running in from the right, and he lashed a shot that Cooper parried out for a corner.

Both teams entered the second extra time period with no substitutes remaining, and the Armada proved they had all they needed on the field when Keita hit the net three minutes later.

The Armada will be back in action Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET, when it travels to face the Carolina RailHawks in NASL action.

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