Strong Armada Defense Earns Draw

On an early kickoff in the hot August sun, the Jacksonville Armada FC played Minnesota United FC at Community First Park to a 0-0 draw Saturday. Start time was moved up to 2:30 p.m. to allow for ‘Football Night in Jacksonville,’ as the Jaguars hosted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 7:30 p.m. at Everbank Field the same day.

The Armada played their third game in a week’s time and it was not made easy on them, already on short rest. The game was held to a sluggish pace, and the 2,516 people who made their way in to watch left feeling a little unsatisfied. There were positives from the game though, as the defense held strong and earned a clean sheet, as well as the unbeaten streak for interim head coach Mark Lowry continuing.

Minnesota forward Christian Ramirez is the NASL leading goal scorer this season, and Lowry’s defense stifled the United striker, holding him to just three shots. Although the pace was lacking in the game, the Armada defense had to be on their best to get the best of Ramirez, regardless of the conditions.

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Miguel Gallardo and the defense held strong for it’s first clean sheet since June 4.

Coach Lowry spoke about his satisfaction with his defense. “Defensively, as a group we were fantastic, and that shows in the clean sheet.” After showing his appreciation for the defense as a whole, Lowry then went back to talk more specifically about his players. “I think we’ve got some good defenders back there, Tyler(Ruthven) and Mechack(Jerome) in my opinion are two of the best center backs in the league.”

“Man of the Match” Matt Bahner was part of that defensive team on Saturday, playing as a full back in the Armada back four. In a game that only netted one shot on goal, he stood tall in his few opportunities. It was Bahner who denied Minnesota of their best scoring opportunity, when he threw himself at a shot to deflect it off the Armada goal line.

Bahner was clear that he is ready for fairer weather, as the Armada have had to battle the elements in recent weeks. “It’s funny because we’ve probably had two of the most miserable games we’ve ever played in, in Ottawa, with the monsoon, and today with the blazing heat.” Bahner did not want the use the weather as an excuse though, noting that it is both teams that are out there playing, so it is a fair disadvantage.

Coach Lowry also made it clear that the heat had an impact on both teams today. The temperature at kickoff was recorded at 93 degrees, but the direct sunlight surely raised those temperatures throughout the game. “(The heat) massively affected how both teams lined up. We like to press high, they like to press high, and you didn’t see much of that today. That’s clearly because of the heat. We felt that if we had come flying out of the gates, maybe after 20, 30 minutes, we would have run out of gas.”

Junior Sandoval and company could not engineer any goals off of set pieces, or anything else.

The slow pace of the match finally was shaken up in the 77th minute when Minnesota midfielder Ibson was shown a red card for a high kick that landed on Kevan George’s torso. The Armada attacked with their extra man advantage and had good chances from Jemal Johnson and Mechack Jerome, but Minnesota survived the test.

The Armada will have a bye week next week before playing again, which will be a much needed rest after this week’s stretch of games. The Armada are back in action Saturday, September 3 at 7:30 p.m. in Carolina against former Armada striker Matt Fondy and the Railhawks.

Photos by SE Sports Media