RECAP | RailHawks 4, Armada FC 0

The Carolina RailHawks found the back of the net four times in the opening half en route to a victory over Jacksonville Armada FC
Jacksonville Armada FC Staff | May 30, 2015

Just before kickoff, a group of Carolina RailHawks fans who made the more than 400-mile journey south held up a banner in their corner of Community First Park. Playing off a “Battleship” theme, the banner showed a ship with four red pegs stuck into it, which, in the board game would leave it sunk.

That banner proved prophetic, as Jacksonville Armada FC was sunk by halftime.

Carolina’s four first-half goals propelled them to a 4-0 victory Saturday night, spoiling the Armada FC’s first ever sellout (8,573 fans), snapping their perfect home record, and ending their slim hopes of a Spring Season title.

Now, their chances of making the league playoffs hinge on either winning the Fall Season or finishing with one of the top-two best overall records among the rest of the field.

But that seems a long way off now. With two games remaining before the summer break — including one against the league-leading New York Cosmos — the focus is just to stop leaking goals.

Between Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup loss to the Richmond Kickers and Saturday’s defeat, the Armada FC have been outscored 7-0 in their last two games.

That mid-week loss surely left Jacksonville a bit below full strength, and they were also without injured star striker Alhassane Keita, but the RailHawks were in the same boat having also played Wednesday and with co-leading scorer Nacho Novo on the bench.

The visitors didn’t look any worse for wear, even after the Armada FC controlled the opening minutes.

Early on, Jacksonville struggled to convert possession and slick passing into clear scoring chances. Shots from distance were blocked or off target, and winning corner kick after corner kick held little threat against the RailHawks center back pairing of Connor Tobin (6-foot-1) and Futty Danso (6-foot-3).

When Carolina countered in the ninth minute, Armada FC right back Matt Bahner went sprinting after it in hopes of clearing out for a throw-in. His hustle drew deserved applause, as he went sliding off the field into an advertising board, but the ensuing corner silenced the crowd.

Carolina midfielder Nazmi Albadawi came forward to take a pass from the corner at the edge of the penalty area. When five Armada FC players rushed out to meet him, he cleverly chipped a pass over the top that the captain, Tobin, buried for a 1-0 lead.

The next 24 minutes were marked by the Armada FC reasserting control of possession and hunting for an equalizer, but the tone of the match took a drastic turn in the 33rd minute.

Jacksonville holding midfielder Lucas Scaglia fouled Albadawi, earning a yellow card and sending the injured RailHawks midfielder to the locker room. Three minutes later, Neil Hlavaty picked up a loose ball at the top of the box and coolly curled it into the top right corner to double the lead.

That opened the flood gates.

In the 40th minute, center back Fabricio Ortiz picked up a yellow card and gave up a free kick just outside the penalty area that Leo Osaki bent around the wall into the goal.

The Armada FC barely had time to breathe before the RailHawks were on the attack again, as 'keeper Miguel Gallardo came out for a one-on-one save. But on the ensuing play, center back Lucas Trejo was called for a foul in the box, and Mark Anderson — who had just subbed on for Albadawi — put away the penalty kick to make it 4-0.

In all, it was three goals in eight minutes, a devastating end to the half that turned the match into little more than waiting for the clock to reach 90:00.

That didn’t mean there weren’t some bright spots in the second half, though.

Akeil Barrett came off the bench in the 52nd minute and very nearly had a goal minutes later, but his run was a yard short of meeting Pascal Millien’s ground cross in front of goal.

In the 60th minute, midfielder Jaime Castrillon — who looked sharp in his third game back from injury — was unlucky to have a close-range volley saved by Carolina 'keeper Akira Fitzgerald.

But that will be little consolation to the Armada FC, who must now right the ship before their Spring Season is sunk.

They’ll take the field next on Sunday, June 7, hosting the Ottawa Fury at 4 p.m.

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