The Jacksonville Armada FC hosted the Fort Lauderdale Strikers at Community First Park on Wednesday for its second of three games this week. After getting the club’s first road win in franchise history on Saturday in Ottawa, Armada interim head coach Mark Lowry made his home debut looking for back to back wins. After certainly one of the best performances of the season, the Armada were disappointingly held to a 1-1 draw.
They began the match positively, dominating in possession for most of the opening 20 minutes. Fan favorite Danny Barrow made his first start since June, and was very direct and dangerous with his movement on the ball. It was an isolated mistake in the 20th minute by Matt Bahner who gave the ball away to Ft Lauderdale’s Angulo who then calmly put the Strikers ahead 1-0.
The Armada bounced back though, as another dominant spell of possession led to Zack Steinberger receiving a pass from Pascal Millien, before cutting past a defender and smashing it home past the keeper. With an equalizer right before the halftime whistle, the “Boys in Blue” could feel the momentum in their favor. They finished the half with 10 shots, three on goal, which is more than the Armada usually musters up in an entire game.
“Mistakes are going to happen,” Coach Lowry said after the game. “We just have to make sure we limit them going forward and try to comeback if we do go behind, and they did that tonight.”
The second half began slowly and finally kick started in the 58th minute when a sloppy scramble in front Armada keeper Miguel Gallardo’s net led to a near goal for Ft. Lauderdale. At the opposite end, Steinberger and Millien once again combined for a good chance, while defender Mechack Jerome just missed on one of his trademark free kicks.
Jerome took over the remainder of the game, not with his rocket boot, but with his ruthless defending. He had at least four or five crunching, last-ditch tackles that saved the Armada on multiple occasions toward the end of the game. These selfless efforts for the team were almost rewarded when Charles Eloundou fired in a rebound to give the Armada a late 2-1 lead. After about 15 seconds of team celebration, Armada hearts were broken when the referee called the goal back due to a Pekka Lagerblom foul just before the goal.
When asked about the disallowed goal, Steinberger said, “I was celebrating and I see the center ref come over to the side line ref and I’m like, ‘Oh, crap.’”
Coach Lowry had a more mature and experienced outlook on the foul that disallowed the goal, along with the officiating crew. “We instinctively look at the linesman, and to be fair he put his flag up early so I knew he’d already given the free kick. It’s one of those (things), another day it doesn’t get called and we would benefit from it, but tonight it just didn’t happen.”
The Armada now take the field on Saturday to try and keep Lowry’s unbeaten streak alive at home against Minnesota. With their third game in seven days, Coach Lowry talked about trying to balance the starting squad along with player’s stamina and fatigue.
“You have to see the big picture. Ideally you keep the same 11 out there (after a win or good performance), but we have a good squad, we have a lot of depth. You make those changes and hope in the long run it pays off.”
Armada supporters will hope Lowry’s strategy pays off too, as this recent unbeaten streak has been a bright spot in a cumulatively disappointing season. The Armada will play Minnesota United at 2:30 p.m. at Community First Park for the first part of “Football Night in Jacksonville”, with the Jaguars taking on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers next door at Everbank Field at 7:30 p.m.
Photos by SE Sports Media