Armada FC Remains In Postseason Race With Win Over Eddies

Jacksonville grinds out an impressive win with 10 men over FC Edmonton
Jacksonville Armada FC Staff | Oct 17, 2015

Much of Jacksonville Armada FC’s year has been an effort to recapture the highs of a dominant, delirious debut win over FC Edmonton back in April, when it seemed the team just might be an unstoppable attacking force during its first season in the NASL.

That hasn’t quite proven true throughout the months since, but you won’t find a better display of the club’s offensive might than Saturday’s rematch with the Eddies.

Despite an Alhassane Keita red card in the 51st minute, the Armada FC scored twice with 10 men to notch a 3-2 comeback win over Edmonton in front of 6,503 fans at Community First Park.

Keita’s error – composed of two yellows for one sloppy tackle and one late challenge – obscured an otherwise sterling first half, when he scored to give his side the lead.

And after Edmonton capitalized with two quick goals, the Armada FC came roaring back with two of their own via a Pascal Millien penalty and a shot from substitute Akeil Barrett, then held on to keep their long-shot postseason hopes alive – escaping a repeat of their last home match, when they fell to 10 men, lost a lead and settled for a draw with Indy Eleven.

Saturday’s match didn’t get off to as fast a start as the April contest, when Jemal Johnson scored just 12 seconds into an eventual 3-1 win, but the first half felt just as lopsided.

While the visitors had two good chances and forced one Miguel Gallardo save, they were under siege for the rest of the period.

Jaime Castrillón had a shot and volley go wide after botched clearances, Millien sent a shot high after making two defenders miss at the top of the box, and Keita showed the quickness, creativity, and incessant will to score that made him such a threat at the beginning of the season.

His early back-heel pass nearly set up Millien for a shot, and undeterred by a 14th-minute yellow card, he repeatedly harassed the Edmonton back line, both with and without the ball, to create chances.

His effort paid off in the 32nd. Following a run from deep in midfield, Keita had the ball knocked away by a defender to Johnson, who one-timed a perfect pass back that Keita controlled and slid past Edmonton ‘keeper Matt VanOekel with his left foot for his team-high seventh goal of the year.

And he nearly added an eighth before the half, when he got on the end of a Shawn Nicklaw cross. But VanOekel smothered that and Castrillón’s rebound before parrying Millien’s follow-up from distance.

The second half began with a surprise, as attacking midfielder Barrett came on for defensive midfielder Lucas Scaglia, who went out with an apparent injury. To maintain balance, the Armada FC dropped Castrillón from his attacking role back into Scaglia’s position, and the change was met with renewed offensive intent from the visitors.

Within 30 seconds, Ritchie Jones forced a save by Gallardo that Nicklaw had to clean up with a clearance out the back, and the ensuing corner generated a good shot that Edmonton put wide.

Five minutes later, Keita came up with another game-changing play, but this time in the wrong way.

A late challenge on Cristian Raudales earned him a second yellow card, and within 15 minutes, the Eddies had equalized and taken the lead.

First, Daryl Fordyce tapped in the rebound from a Frank Jonke shot that came off the post, and the speedy Sainey Nyassi followed up by making a curling run behind left back Lucas Trejo, collecting a through ball and beating Gallardo.

But unlike an Oct. 3 draw with Indy Eleven, when the Armada FC went down to 10 men, lost a lead and drew, the home side had plenty of firepower left.

Just one minute after Nyassi’s goal, Barrett broke through at the other end and drew a penalty from a foul by Johann Smith. Millien put that away with a no-doubter to his left, and two minutes later, Barrett was back in action.

This time, a deflected shot from Johnson bounced out wide to the right, Barrett rounded it and fired a shot across VanOekel, off the far post and in to restore the lead.

That was far from the end of the drama.

Two minutes later, in the 72nd, Dustin Corea nearly pulled Edmonton level with a shot that was deflected off the post, and on the ensuing corner, Mallan Roberts managed a header that Gallardo had to dive to keep out.

Then, in the 83rd, Armada FC center back Matt Bahner headed a shot off the line when Gallardo was pulled out of goal – the last big stop the team would have to make to secure the three points.

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