JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Armada's once-bright start to the NASL Fall Season continued to slide in the wrong direction on Saturday, as the Boys in Blue fell 2-0 to last season’s Fall champions, Ottawa Fury FC.
With a lineup that debuted two new signings and featured a total of five players acquired in the past six weeks, the Armada was looking to bounce back from a two-game losing streak and get back to the form that saw it jump out to a quick four points earlier this month.
But instead, goals from Thomas Stewart and Carl Haworth — both assisted by Bryan Olivera — gave the visitors the advantage at Community First Park, where the 95-degree kickoff temperature tied a club record.
Saturday marked the debuts for midfielder and captain Pekka Lagerblom (first action since preseason), midfielder Nicklas Maripuu and striker Alex Andersson. While all three had their bright moments, the final touch. Lagerblom and Maripuu worked the central midfield until the captain was subbed off at the half, while Andersson tried to serve as the target up front.
The opening 15 minutes held a series of close calls, including two Zach Steinberger crosses that would have led to point-blank shots if Andersson or right back Matt Bahner had made solid contact.
But that marked the end of a dominant early period for Jacksonville (1-1-3, 4 pts. NASL Fall Season, 2-5-8, 11 pts. Combined).
Fury FC fired a shot across the bow in the 21st minute when Maxim Tissot got in behind Bahner, and goalkeeper Sean Lewis had to come out to stop the attack. And then in the 37th, Ottawa (1-0-3 Fall, 3 pts., 3-3-8, 12 pts. Combined) broke through.
Olivera darted toward goal with the ball at his feet, then placed a perfect pass to Stewart on the right. Stewart controlled it and calmly finished with his left foot to notch the opening goal.
The Armada struggled to create chances for an equalizer, until Andersson headed an Anthony Wallace cross into the hands of Fury goalkeeper Romuald Peiser just before the halftime whistle.
The second half brought more chances for Ottawa, with fullback Eddie Edward nearly doubling the lead in the 58th with a header that went just wide. But Haworth finished that job two minutes later, lashing a shot just inside the far post after a long run from Olivera.
Trailing by two, Armada head coach Tony Meola made two changes that were progressively more attack-minded. First, he brought on striker Charles Eloundou for holding midfielder Kevan George, transforming the 4-1-4-1 lineup into a 4-4-2. Next, he dropped fullback Anthony Wallace for winger Jemal Johnson, moving to three at the back.
That did lead to chances, including an Eloundou shot in the 89th and a Junior Sandoval rocket off the post in stoppage time, but the Armada couldn’t find the back of the net.
Jacksonville is now 0-0-8 when the opponent scores first, and they have not scored an equalizer this season.
The Armada will be back in action next Saturday at the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.