Still going strong: Armada finish with a fury, stay unbeaten in NPSL playoffs

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Armada are the hottest team in Jacksonville as they continued their winning ways Wednesday night in the National Premier Soccer League playoffs.

The Armada roared back in the closing stretch, scoring two goals in stoppage time to beat fourth-seeded Naples United FC 3-1 in the South Region semifinals.

Marc Birkelund scored a pair of goals and Reed Davis added the other to keep the Armada unbeaten this season. Top-seeded Jacksonville will now play No. 2 seeded Tulsa Athletic Saturday night at Episcopal School in the NPSL South Region final.

Tulsa advanced after defeating Laredo Heat SC in a penalty kick shootout.

After another weather delay postponing the match for nearly two hours, kickoff began, and the contest was away.

Another chippy contest saw multiple yellow and red cards, as players from both sides were sent off by the night’s end.

The Armada got off to a slow contest similar to their conference final against Southern States. The team was sluggish and couldn’t create any real opportunities in the first half. In the 36th minute, Naples took advantage and struck first.

Like it has all season long, Jacksonville came out a different team in the second half.

It wouldn’t be until the 78th minute that Birkelund would shoot a rocket of a shot from about 35 yards out to score the first goal of the game for the Armada.

Head coach Tommy Krizanovic said it was a tremendous amount of confidence as the Armada overcame another deficit.

“We’ve been in the situation before and throughout the regular season that we’ve coped well with,” Krizanovic said. “I didn’t believe for one second that we weren’t going to fight our way back into the game.

The boys in blue followed up in stoppage time, where Davis would connect on a header from a Jed Bowman cross into the back of the net to take the lead.

The Jacksonville crowd roared as their team scored a dramatic goal to go in front. They weren’t done yet as Birkelund scored his second goal of the night, icing the game for Jacksonville.

Davis said the first goal gave the Armada momentum to keep going.

“We didn’t have the best start, but we never gave up. That’s been the storyline this season,” Davis said. “We score the tying goal, and then everything started to click, and we scored the go-ahead goal.”

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