The Jacksonville Armada FC traveled north to take on first-place North Carolina FC Saturday, Aug. 12. The first half showed promise for Jacksonville, but North Carolina’s momentum equalized the match in the second half, resulting in a 2-2 draw.
“This is, in my opinion, the hardest place to come,” said head coach Mark Lowry about Sahlen’s Stadium. “A point coming here is never a bad result. You don’t expect to come here and dominate the game.”
The first few minutes of the match opened up with an exciting result for Tony Taylor, one of the recent forwards to join Jacksonville. Zach Steinberger sent a good ball to the corner where it found Taylor, who fired the ball into the back of the net in the 3rd minute to put the Armada FC on the board first.
Taylor continued with positive results, soon drawing a foul in the penalty box in the 17th minute. Jack Blake stepped up to take the kick and easily converted it to give the Armada FC the 2-0 lead.
Jacksonville’s confidence stayed high, with Taylor and Brian Shriver connecting up top to bring the ball forward. In the back, the Armada FC defense held tight too, being led by Aaron Pitchkolan. He had clearances and kept a 100 percent pass rate in the first half.
North Carolina found momentum just before hitting the locker rooms, however. Andre Fortune curled a shot up and around Jacksonville goalkeeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell to put North Carolina on the board.
The halftime whistle blew with Armada FC leading by one.
The teams returned to the field for the second half, and North Carolina slowly picked up its momentum.
“You give yourself no breathing room when it’s 2-1,” Lowry said. “North Carolina has a lot of bodies coming forward, a lot of players going past you, and is a very hard team to go against if you don’t take your chances.”
Despite a great save by Patterson-Sewell when Fortune took a shot on goal, Lance Laing of North Carolina found the rebound and fired it right into the net. North Carolina tied it up at the 68th minute.
Jacksonville’s Zach Steinberger answered North Carolina’s momentum with some effort of his own. He recorded a shot on goal early in the second half and then had the best scoring opportunity for the Armada FC late in the match.
Just when both teams were showing tired legs, Charles Eloundou sent a pass to Steinberger right in front of the goal. What looked to be an easy tap in was just barely saved by Brian Sylvestre and kept Jacksonville from taking the lead again.
“The first half we were good,” Lowry said. “One moment we fell asleep in the box, we didn’t clear our lines properly, we switched off for a second and we got punished to make it 2-1. Then the second half was a complete different game.”
Neither team could break the gridlock and the night ended in a 2-2 draw.
Jacksonville brought one point back home and will return to action Wednesday at Hodges Stadium. Kickoff with Puerto Rico FC is scheduled for 7 p.m. and tickets are on sale now at http://www.armadafc.com.