Photos by SE Sports Media
After five losses in a row, including two straight road defeats, the Armada were looking to bounce back at home against the Carolina Railhawks. The big signing last winter was Forward Matt Fondy, who was came from Louisville City after a record setting 22 goals and earning USL MVP in 2015. With a scoreless spring season in Jacksonville, Fondy was sold to Carolina. Fondy’s first return to Jacksonville dominated the headlines of Saturday’s Clash at Community First Park. It was somebody else though who stole the headlines for what transpired after the game.
Fondy was not the only splash winter signing for the Armada. Former USMNT goalkeeper Tony Meola was brought to town for his first coaching gig, but after only two wins over the cumulative season and six games in a row netting only one point out of a possible eighteen, Meola was relieved of his head coaching duties Sunday morning.
In a game against Carolina where the Armada had a lead late in the game only to concede, it was tough not to wonder if Meola was on the hot seat. After Carolina was reduced to ten men with considerable time left in the game, the Armada seemed destined to win the game and end the losing streak. They did not though, and the game ended in a 2-2 draw. The icing on the cake was Matt Fondy’s sixth minute goal, which was not received very well in his former stadium.
Even after the game though, Meola seemed considerably happier than previous weeks and insisted the team was in good spirits. “They seem pretty good in the locker room. They feel pretty good about the way we played. Sure we’ve got to close out a game though, there’s no doubt.”
Meola did not seem to think he would be given the axe just yet, but nonetheless the move was made the following morning. The team announced that director of soccer operations Nathan Walter will take over as technical director as Mark Lowry is named interim head coach. Pat Cannon and Daryl Sattler will serve as Mark Lowry’s assistant coaches.
The movement in the coaching staff obviously overshadowed what was the Armada’s best on-field display in the previous weeks, despite not getting the win. Charles Eloundou grabbed both Armada goals in Saturday’s draw, which was the first multi-goal effort by an Armada player since Alhassane Keita did it August 8, 2015 in a 3-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Other positive take aways included a late Danny Barrow sighting when he was introduced in the 78th minute. Barrow immediately became the most positive player on the field, as his runs into the defense were causing the Railhawks all sorts of problems.
Interim coach Mark Lowry’s first test will be an away trip to Ottawa, who beat the Armada at home two weeks ago. A win would be a huge start for Lowry, as the Armada have never won a road game in franchise history (25 tries). The game will be August 13th at 5pm at TD Place Stadium.