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Armada FC fall to Cosmos in NASL opener

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HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. – Though it was not the result Jacksonville Armada FC head coach Tony Meola wanted to see in his regular season debut, there were several positives he saw in his team’s 2-0 loss to the New York Cosmos on Sunday night at James M. Shuart Stadium.

Jacksonville (0W-0D-1L NASL Spring) looked to be the stronger side through much of the first half. However, it was one short instant where the Armada backline got caught with the shields down that allowed the Cosmos to snag momentum.

“It was not the result were looking for, no question, but I thought we were very good the first 30 minutes,” Meola said. “We stuck to the game plan and made the Cosmos uncomfortable on some of the things we were doing. Then one long ball beats us in the back, and before you know it, we’re down 1-0. It’s something we’ll learn from, there’s no doubt.”

Through the first 15 minutes, each team traded off target shots. Then in the 19th, Bryan Burke slid down the right side and fired in a picture-perfect cross in point-blank range of the goal right to the head of Pascal Millien. But Millien’s header attempt proved to have a bit too much thrust and sailed over the goal.

Ten minutes later in a sudden flip of momentum, Juan Arango slipped a through ball to Jairo Arrieta, who was able to shake the Armada defense and blast a clean shot at goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo. Gallardo was able to get a hand on it, but the ball kept rolling and just made it into the goal to put New York up 1-0 before Gallardo could get back up and chase it down.

In the 48th, forward Alhassane Keita had a shot at an equalizer when a lob bounced in the perfect position for a header, but he ended up getting to the spot an instant too late and Cosmos goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer was there to cradle the ball. In the 55th minute, Cosmos midfielder Adam Moffat, who came on for Ruben Bover coming out of the locker room at halftime, extended his team’s lead to 2-0 when he blasted a rocket goal from 15 yards out off a feed from midfielder Niko Kranjcar.

With the sudden swing of momentum, it allowed the Cosmos to keep the pressure on Gallardo, but it still did not stop the Armada from continuing to have chances of their own. Forward Charles Eloundou, who led Jacksonville in the preseason with four goals, launched a curling shot in the 64th from the left wing off a Kevan George pass but Maurer was there again to save it.

Eloundou had a similar attempt in the 77th minute off a feed from George that swerved just to the left of the goal while midfielder Junior Sandoval, who subbed on for Alex Dixon in the 57th, had a couple of solid attempts down the stretch.