Attack of the Armada: Puerto Rico at Hodges Stadium

The Jacksonville Armada (0W-1D-2L, 2 points in fall) look to climb out of the bottom of the NASL fall season table Wednesday night.  Jax hosts Puerto Rico FC (1W-2D-0L, 5 points) for their second meeting in the last three matches.  PRFC will try to become the first team to notch two wins in the fall.  On the other side, Jacksonville has not won a match since defeating FC Edmonton on July 1.  The six-match win-less streak seems to be a cloud hanging over the Armada.  Even with a 2-2 road draw with North Carolina FC, Jax was unable to hold onto an early 2-0 lead.  After back-to-back clean sheets and two shutouts against the Armada this season, PRFC is riding high.  You can tune into Wednesday’s match on WJXT (local Channel 4) and ESPN3.  Radio coverage can be found on FM 97.3 for the English broadcast and FM 106.9 (Spanish call).  Match time is 7 p.m.

  1. Saturday’s 2-2 draw in North Carolina for the Armada was nice considering the venue, opponent and result but it was one the Jacksonville organization will look back on as a should-have won.  A third-minute goal from Tony Taylor and another netter by Jack Blake on a penalty kick tells you the Armada dominated the first 20 minutes.  North Carolina, like they do, kept knocking.  Fortunately Jax was able to produce goals, and it was clear Taylor was the Man of the Match with NCFC’s Lance Laing.  Now the next question becomes can Brian Shriver – acquired in a trade with North Carolina – produce goals soon.  If not, how much does that alter the team’s second-half subs of say Charles Eloundou and Derek Gebhard?  Another plus was the last match looked like Zach Steinberger was finding some of his early season form.
  2. Puerto Rico has held the Armada scoreless in the last two meetings.  They are one of the more physical squads in the NASL.  In three matches between these clubs, only three goals have been scored.  Both sides will use a 4-2-3-1 formation.  Jacksonville will have defender Peabo Doue, who received two yellow yards in the Aug. 5 match in Puerto Rico, back from his one-game ouster.  In his place, youngster Devon Fisher started his third match for the Blue and Gold Saturday and did a fine job.  In the last two PRFC matches, Fisher came in as a sub and totaled 24 minutes.  Head coach Mark Lowry will have a challenge of going with either Doue or Fisher as one of the four along the backline.
  3. Armada FC has not dropped a home match since falling to Miami FC on June 3, which seems like a lifetime ago.  Jacksonville has one win and two draws in the last three at Hodges.  Puerto Rico was able to get a 1-1 draw in the first meeting on the First Coast on July 12.  In front of 2,153 fans, the Armada scored an own goal from Drew Beckie and thankfully had Derek Gebhard secure a point with one of his own in the 92nd minute.  The 21-year-old, who made the NASL Team of the Month for July, has been a substitute for the last two matches.  Don’t be shocked if he starts so Tony Taylor can get a little rest ahead of Sunday’s tough one with Miami.  In the last home match Gebhard took three shots.  Or does Lowry trot out Taylor, a Jacksonville native, for the full 90 Wednesday and Sunday.
  4. The University of North Florida men’s and women’s soccer teams have resumed practice at Hodges Stadium with school back in session.  The Armada have not played at home since Sunday, July 30.  The field won’t be as saturated as it was for that duel with the San Francisco Deltas where the near-side became worn and slippery in the second half.  After Tony Taylor clicked in the last match, you better believe Section 904 and the home faithful will be rowdy and ready for goals.  But it sets up for another defensive battle, so look for Puerto Rico’s Jordi Quintilla and Giuseppe Gentile to jump start the offensive attack because it only takes one to fly home with at least a point.
  5. The Armada will have a short break after Wednesday’s match before hosting Miami FC (1W-1D-3L, 3 points in fall) on Sunday.  The second of back-to-back home games will kick off at 6 p.m.  The southern foe leads the NASL combined standings with 39 points – eight ahead of second-place San Francisco.  After dropping the first three to start the fall, Miami had an impressive 3-1 victory over FC Edmonton on Saturday and a nil-nil draw Tuesday with North Carolina FC.  Jacksonville fell in the two spring matches versus Miami while being outscored 5-0.

Prediction: Jacksonville 1, Puerto Rico 0