JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With its North American Soccer League playoff hopes hanging by a thread, the Jacksonville Armada FC looked to be on the way to living to fight another day against Ottawa Fury FC on Wednesday night at Community First Park, but in the end, the glimmer faded away and Ottawa won 3-1 to clinch the NASL Fall Season title.
The Armada (5W-3D-10L Fall Season, 8-6-14 Combined) needed to win and have Fort Lauderdale either lose or draw in its game against San Antonio on Wednesday night to keep stay alive in the race for the fourth and final spot in The Championship. Jacksonville had half of the scenario work out in its favor as the Strikers played to a scoreless draw with the Scorpions, but its loss to Ottawa officially took the Armada out of contention.
"(Ottawa) is a very disciplined team and has learned to win on the road throughout the year," said Armada FC interim head coach Eric Dade. "I think for us we found ourselves up, and instead of embracing it, we kind of got away from what we were doing well in the first half. That's disappointing, but you have to give (Ottawa) credit because they made things difficult (for us)."
Things looked like it would go the way of the Armada when Haitian defender Mechack Jerome took advantage of a foul committed on fellow Haitian National Teamer Pascal Millien and blasted a stunning free kick goal in the 37th minute from 40 yards out past the outstretched hands of Ottawa goalkeeper Romuald Peiser to take a 1-0 lead that held true going into halftime. The goal was the Armada's first against Fury FC in the clubs' young series against one another.
Prior to the Armada gaining the advantage, Ottawa (13-5-1, 15-10-4) dug in with its signature stingy defense in the first half and very well could have had a two-goal advantage. Fury defender Ryan Richter headed in a fast shot off a corner in the 20th minute, but Armada goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo was able to get it front of it. Gallardo punched out a dangerous cross by Sinisa Ubiparipovic just four minutes later, while Falvey followed that with a header that deflected off the bottom of the crossbar in the 26th minute.
Both sides jockeyed for position coming out of the lockerroom in the second half until Fury FC got the equalizer in the 59th minute when defender Rafael Alves took advantage of a crowd in front of Gallardo and blasted in a shot from close range. Ubiparipovic then put Ottawa up 2-1 just minutes later when he was able to chip one over Gallardo's head from 15-yards out.
Fury FC forward Andrew Wiedemann put the icing on Ottawa's celebration cake when he took a pass from forward Carl Haworth and put it home for the night's final goal.
With two matches left to finish out the year, the Armada will try to finish strong and get its first road win at 4 p.m. this Sunday when it heads to Edmonton, Alberta, to take on FC Edmonton. Jacksonville took down the Eddies last Saturday at Community First Park, 3-2, in an incredible come-from-behind win.