Armada overcomes halftime deficit to win 7-2 in playoff opener

Section 904, the supporters section for the Jacksonville Armada, cheer on the club's U-23 team during a 7-2 playoff win over Pensacola FC Wednesday evening. (Kole Emplit, WJXT 2022)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The undefeated season continues.

The No. 1 seeded Jacksonville Armada hosted and defeated No. 4 Pensacola FC in the NPSL Gulf Coast Conference Semifinals Wednesday night, 7-2.

This was the third time these two met, with Jacksonville taking both games during the regular season.

Pensacola struck first within 10 seconds, opening up the score. Anthony Ciccarello was able to find the back of the net, catching the Jacksonville defense off guard.

They would keep the scoring going in the 17th minute, as Prince Owusu found Ciccarello for his second goal of the night.

The Armada would respond as Donat Juhasz crossed a ball inside the box to Cao Chaves, who scored Jacksonville’s first goal of the night.

Head coach Tommy Krizanovic must’ve given his squad a halftime speech for the ages as the Armada looked like a brand-new team in the second half.

“All year, it’s been how we react to adversity and how we wanted to be defined,” Krizanovic said. “Our game changes were important today from the back to the front line, and everyone made a difference.”

To start the second half, within 10 minutes, the Armada scored three straight to take a 4-2 lead.

Among those difference makers was Chaves, who completed his hat-trick when he scored an outside of the boot shot to give the Armada their fourth goal.

They weren’t done yet, as Ethan Dudley scored a free kick for his second goal of the night in the 66′ minute.

The Armada capped it with two more goals by Reed Davis and Angus Taylor for the 7-2 finish, never taking their foot off the pedals.

“Once we found our way back into the game, we knew we could keep scoring,” Krizanovic said. “We wanted to write out the story and be a defensive-minded team, and we showed that in the second half with our organization.”

A season ago, despite being the top seed in the region, Jacksonville lost to New Orleans in the first round, ending their season.

Krizanovic said the team has had a chip on their shoulder and looking to prove it.

“The boys are ready to go for Saturday, as we’re going to use the next two days to recover,” Krizanovic said. “We have a chip on our shoulder, ready to play our style and game.”

The win marked 12 straight wins as the Armada continued their dominant season.

The Armada will now host the winner of #2 seed Southern States SC and #3 seed New Orleans Jesters Saturday evening at Jangro Stadium.