The Armada traveled to Minnesota, still controlling their own destiny when it came to the Spring Championship. The team was forced to make a few changes after Fabricio Ortiz was banned for a match after accumulating five yellow cards. Shawn Nicklaw replaced Ortiz in the lineup as the team shifted into a 4-3-3, David Sierra (who played for real madrid C) replaced Miguel Gallardo, who was a healthy scratch, and Jaime Castrillon returned from his injury, slotting in for Alhassane Keita who was out due to his hamstring injury.
Right off the bat, it was obvious that this was going to be a physical game. Just seconds into the game, Christiano Dias elbowed Marcos Flores right in the face, and automatically got booked. Minnesota pressured the Armada’s defense in the first eight minutes. One dangerous moment happened when Pascal Millien intercepted the ball and was immediately pressured by United. He tried to track back to Shawn Nicklaw, but he lost the ball and Miguel Ibarra collected it and passed it to another Loon, who sent a shot over the bar. The talent in United’s attack meant that this was not going to be an easy evening for Jacksonville.
The Armada moved the ball around a lot, with Flores, and Jemal Johnson tracking back to get a few touches on it. Both teams possessed the ball well and spent much of the first half feeling out the opposing side’s defense.
In the 13th minute, Shawn Nicklaw is booked for a challenge against Ibarra. One minute later, Minnesota crossed the ball into the box, Campos gets his head on it, but Sierra made a great save on the attempt. The Armada were being very active in the mid-field, doing great tiki-taka footwork to track ahead and forward. In the 16th minute, the Armada lost the ball and a juicy through ball from Minnesota looked to threaten the goal, but Sierra slid in to collect it.
Twenty minutes into the match, the Armada would have more than 100 passes trying to get a good through ball to the forwards, and a cross from Nicklaw would be cleared by the Minnesota defense to force a corner. Once again, the team took a short corner that was ineffective and immediately cleared by Minnesota.the section 904 fans truly do hate.
At the half hour mark, Flores dropped to the grass, apparently with a cramp, but he was up on his feet soon after. Minnesota would again send a through ball on goal, but David Sierra came off of his line and slid to the rescue. He was outstanding in this game, and I think we may see him again before the spring season is over.
The mostly uneventful first half ended with a solid defensive play from Matt Bahner which led to an Armada corner. It was taken short again, so nothing happened from it. The team really needs to start mixing in normal corners to be more effective when they have the chances. The half ended without either team finding the net.
the first goal of the game came in the 51st minute. Khalif Alhassane drew a controversial penalty for Minnesota. In my opinion, that was never a foul, but the referee blew the whistle and Pablo Campos buried the penalty kick to make the score 1-0 for the Loons. Seven minutes later, another defensive mistake proved costly. The Armada were caught not marking one of the deadliest strikers in the NASL, and they payed for it. Tiago Calvano scored while appearing offside, but the ball had hit Lucas Rodrigues in the play, which meant that Calvano was ruled to be onside.
The Armada began making subs, subbing in Akeil Barrett for Rodrigues. With this sub, the Armada had more flare in their passing. Right off the bat, Akeil sent a pass through to Jemal in the box. Jemal passed it to Flores who decided to pass back to Jemal rather than take the shot. Jemal, however, could not reach the pass.
Joseph Toby came into the game in the 68th minute, and brought the speed to dominate strikers and totally block them out.
The Armada pulled one back in the 71st minute when Pascal Millien latched on to a ball ball and knuckled it into the net. The new deficit would be short-lived, however, as five minute later, United would score on a break. Trejo was fouled on the play, but the whistle wasn’t blown. The ball fell to Miguel Ibarra who scored when David Sierra came way too far off of his line. This goal shouldn’t have counted because of the un-called foul against Trejo.
With just nine minutes remaining, Calvano fouled Bochy Hoyos, and was shown a yellow card. Jemal took the free kick and fired a blast that went right through the United keeper’s hand to add another amazing goal to the books.
The referee blew the whistle for full time and the Armada once again fall on the road. Man of the Match goes to Pascal Millien for his goal and overall play during the game.
FINAL MINNESOTA 3-2 JACKSONVILLE ARMADA