Atlanta Silverbacks vs. Jacksonville Armada: Must Win

If Jacksonville win out for the rest of the season, the title for the Spring Season will reside in the 904, along with a playoff spot in hopes of winning the Soccer Bowl in the club’s first year. Saturday night is a must win match regarding the race for the Spring Season title for the Jacksonville Armada.  The boys in blue have won two matches straight at home against the San Antonio Scorpions and the Indy Eleven and will seek their first away win of the season in a vital game against the Atlanta Silverbacks(1-4-1).

Leading into the year, no one really was expecting Armada to be second in the table midway through the spring. It wasn’t expected that the Fleet would have an opportunity to win the title if they won their last five matches. Beginning the year against Edmonton, it was still unsure as to how Armada would line up each and every week. Playing in a 4-3-3 formation at first, there was no space for our front four play makers to to all be on the same pitch together. Marcos Flores, a natural central attacking midfielder, was being deployed at right wing, usually the place of Pascal Millien. If Flores made the lineup as a CAM anyways, where would the dominant Lucas Scaglia have positioned? At a right or left central midfielder he has less of an impact than sitting right in front of the back line. Lucas Rodriguez started at left back which worked out against Edmonton, but he was caught out against an attacking minded Fort Lauderdale squad.

The coaches definitely needed to rethink strategy going into Tampa Bay. This meeting has changed the whole season for the Jacksonville Armada. For the Rowdies match, the Armada unveiled a 3-4-3 formation, a surprise to everyone. Instantly, our team looked stronger having 22 shots against Tampa and dominating every team we have faced since the change. With Millien, Flores, Jemal Jonhson, and Keita all on the field, Jacksonville has shown to be the strongest attack in the NASL.The only problem so far with the new roll out is the defense at times looking to be shaky, but improvements are being seen and it’s getting stronger. Now we stand second in the NASL with nine points from five games and only trail the New York Cosmos on 14 points, for first in the league. To note, Armada has a game in hand while teams around them have played six and that is including the Cosmos.

Last week Armada came out strong against a defensive Indy team. Starting out, Jacksonville received six corners in 12 minutes, instilling their motive they have promoted all season: Pressure. Pressure and pace has led the Armada to where they are today and they caught Indy off guard in the opening moments. Bochy Hoyos eventually scored in the second half on a cross from Matt Bahner to put JAX up and eventually win the match. Easily though it could have ended 3-0, or 4-0 if chances were taken clinically throughout the team. Keita missed two huge opportunities that could have ended in goals, and Jemal Johnson was ruthless in shots he had at the Indy goal. Luckily though, Miguel Gallardo and the Armada back line heroically kept Indy from scoring, and marked the first clean sheet of the year.

Atlanta Silverbacks are coming off of a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Minnesota United from last Saturday. It was the first defeat of the season for Atlanta but they have not had a great year so far, only decent. Through six games, they have only recorded 7 points, and sit fifth in the NASL table. This stat includes three matches at home and three draws to show for the squad. Atlanta will definitely be looking to win their first match at home, but it will be tough against the Jacksonville Armada, a forceful attacking team in the league. Saturday is a big night for the Silverbacks also. Currently on 7 points, there are two teams on six points, and one on five who have played one less game than Atlanta (Indy, Minnesota, Edmonton). If results do not go the way of the Silverbacks, they could be slipping further and further down the table soon.

Armada are promising of goals scoring nine in five games. Atlanta has only scored four goals in six matches. Though they struggle to score, Atlanta is very good defensively, only allowing four goals all season, the best defensive record in the NASL. It will be interesting to see how Armada plays against the best defense in the league, and if Atlanta can finally start scoring.

One player to watch for Atlanta is striker, Shaka Bangura. Bangura has scored two goals and has one assist in the first six games, one of the only bright spots in the Silverbacks attack.

For Armada, Marcos Flores is under the microscope against ATL. Flores also has two goals and an assist but has been a massive part in the development of the strength of the Armada attack. Flores will have to be outstanding Saturday night to find a way to pick apart the Atlanta defense, a feat that is very possible of a player with his caliber. It is also up to the forwards to finish off chances, and not let the best opportunities slip by. Keita will have a point to prove after missing two opportunities last week that should have hit the back of the net.

PREDICTION: Constantly Atlanta and their defense has been praised, but May 16th is the night that they allow more than one goal in a match. Armada will run away with a 3-1 victory and absolutely stun the Silverbacks faithful. Biased prediction? No. Atlanta are weak up front, only strong in the back. Against Indy, the Eleven held on defensively but the longer into the game, the more mistakes were being made, and the more opportunities were being presented. The boys will take their best chances and run away with it in Hotlanta.

BOLD PREDICTION: Fabricio Ortiz gets his fifth yellow card of the season and has to sit out against Minnesota next week.

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