RECAP | Armada FC 2, Scorpions 1

Jacksonville Armada FC defeated the San Antonio Scorpions with a late winner
Jacksonville Armada FC Staff | May 2, 2015

Jacksonville Armada FC really knows how to throw a housewarming party.

After a record-setting debut at EverBank Field in April, the club took the field at their permanent home of Community First Park on Saturday and made it one to remember.

Tied in stoppage time against the defending NASL Champions, the San Antonio Scorpions,  Armada FC substitute Akeil Barrett juked a defender and played a through ball to forward Alhassane Keita in the penalty area. Moving to his left, Keita cut a shot back across goal into the side netting, and the crowd of 8,143 launched into pandemonium — a deserving release of energy after a fast-paced, back-and-forth battle.

Keita’s goal restored a lead the home side first took in the fourth minute via Pascal Millien, and which the Scorpions answered through Omar Cummings in the eighth.

Armada FC 'keeper Miguel Gallardo sealed the win with an acrobatic save on a point-blank header from San Antonio’s Joseph Nane, running Jacksonville’s home record to 2W-0D-0L (2-0-2 overall).

After trying out a 3-4-3 diamond formation last week in Tampa Bay, the Armada FC returned to the more familiar 4-3-3. Lucas Rodriguez was the change, returning to his place at left back while midfielder Jaime Castrillon was sidelined with a stress fracture in his right ankle.

Lucas Trejo, Fabricio Ortiz, and Matt Bahner made up the rest of the back line; Lucas Scaglia, Bochy Hoyos and captain Marcos Flores ran the midfield; and Jemal Johnson, Keita and Millien started up top.

The Armada FC entered this week leading the league in goals per game (2), while the Scorpions led in goals allowed (2.3). So it was no surprise when, four minutes in, Jacksonville found the net.

Keita won the ball and quickly fed Flores, who rolled a perfect pass across to Millien, as he ran through the center of the penalty area with two steps on his defender. The Haitian winger couldn’t miss from there, putting the home side up early.

But San Antonio answered quickly. After a free kick, the ball bounced for Jamaican international Omar Cummings, and he connected with a stunning scissor kick to bury the ball in the far side of the net.

The rest of the half was played at a sometimes-frantic pace, with both teams throwing numbers forward and launching a series of counter attacks.

San Antonio’s early strategy was clearly to send balls into the box for target man Bright Dike, whose 6-foot-1, 213-pound frame would be right at home on a football field. But Armada FC center back Fabricio Ortiz put in a heroic effort to neutralize the big man, despite being down about six inches and 50 pounds.

Meanwhile, Rodriguez and Trejo had their hands full with Cummings, who flew down the wings looking to get crosses in to Dike.

And it was a similar story at the other end, where the Armada FC continuously found Millien streaking down the right early, while Scorpions defender Julius James had to put in a physical display to hold forwards Johnson and Keita back on the left.

Flores had the next-best chance around the half-hour mark after Johnson set him up in front of goal, but San Antonio 'keeper (and former Jacksonville University assistant coach) Daryl Sattler was up to the task and kept it out. Keita also thwarted a possible Dike goal when he tracked all the way back into the penalty area to disrupt what would have been an open shot.

Millien could have added a second toward the end of the half, but he couldn’t get solid contact on an angled volley from around 10 yards out, and Johnson had several good looks sail just over the crossbar.

As you might expect, that high-octane first half gave way to fatigue and fouls. One stretch featured six yellow cards in an 18-minute stretch, including two from one incident. Keita and Scorpions center back Nana Attakora both tumbled after nearly colliding with the 'keeper, and when Attakora stood and reached down, Keita fell back violently to the ground. Fans called for a red card, under the impression that Attakora had shoved Keita, but replays showed Keita had simulated to draw a foul. The end result was cards for both players.

Keita drew yellows on two more Scorpions in the second half thanks to his pace, and Johnson nearly got the winning goal in the 77th minute when he forced Sattler into a diving save.

The Armada FC will return to Community First Park next Saturday against the Indy Eleven.

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