The Jacksonville Armada FC hosted in-state rival Tampa Bay Rowdies in the final game of the fall season on Sunday. A big showing of 4,572 people at Community First Park did not leave disappointed, as the Armada battled back and won a 3-2 thriller to avoid a second consecutive last place finish in the league standings.
While dominating the possession and controlling the game, the Armada found themselves behind by two goals after just nineteen minutes. Having never come back from a 2-0 deficit in club history, the Armada certainly were certainly up against tough odds.
Head coach Mark Lowry describes some of the emotion on the sidelines during that time.
“We sat on the bench just shaking out heads like, ‘I can’t believe this,’” Lowry said. “This is the best soccer we’ve played all season, this is probably the most one sided half of soccer we’ve seen all season, and we find ourselves two goals down. Great strike for their first goal, a set piece for their second and you’re scratching your head.”
Zach Steinberger also addressed the mood of the team when trailing, particularly what happened in the locker room at half time.
“We came into the locker room and we had a talk,” Steinberger said. “Not one person believed we were out of that game. They always say, the Armada, we can be down but we’re never out. So, we came together, we scored three goals and we got the win.
“We always believed. We believed we could score. We believed we could win the game. We had an incredible fan base behind us today and they drove us the entire way home.”
Steinberger has had a huge influence on the Armada this season, contributing in countless crucial moments. Coach Lowry knows how great he’s been and reminisces over his stay before he returns from loan to the Houston Dynamo of the MLS.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, he’s a top player,” Lowry said. “He’s somebody that we admire, he’s somebody that we enjoy having around and you saw it today. He ends it with a goal like that and he fully deserves that. I hope he soaks it up and enjoys his moment.”
Steinberger addressed that moment, as he lifted the Armada to victory in the games dying moments.
“This whole season, I feel like we’ve been on the other side of that game,” Steinberger said. “We’ve been the ones who were leading 2-0, or we were leading 3-2, 2-1, and then we get a PK called against us in the last seconds or we get a goal scored on us in the last seconds. For the shoe to be on the right foot tonight, it meant everything. To go out and send the fans home with a win, it meant the world to me.”
Over the final month of the season, the Armada found themselves playing a lot of games at home, and just about everyone who follows them can agree that the past few outings at Community First Park have been exciting to say the least.
“It’s been a rollercoaster, right?” Steinberger said. “We had the New York game where we were winning and then we ended up getting three goals scored on us in the last five minutes. There was the Miami game where we came back and we won. Then we had this game, where we were down 2-0 in fifteen minutes, came back. I don’t know what it is about this place man, it just brings incredible games. I’m glad we were on the winning side of it tonight.”
Coach Lowry also addressed the stretch, as well as the fan base, who have stayed loyal to the team in a season where it would have been easy to give up.
“We have a responsibility to entertain the fans,” Lowry said. “They pay the money to come and watch us, they support us through thick and thin so we need to reward them. First of all with wins and secondly with entertaining soccer and I think these last three games, I think everybody goes away feeling good about what they came to see. That makes me feel good, that makes the guys feel good and we’ll look to continue that through next season.”
Lowry and his Armada will look to reload and rebound next season. With imminent departures and arrivals, there will be some fresh faces around town. One thing is for certain though, the Armada can be down, but they’re never out.
Photos by SE Sports Media