Jacksonville Armada will be looking to end this disappointing week on a high after falling 3-2 against Minnesota United and 3-0 to the Richmond Kickers earlier in the week. Last Saturday night the Fleet failed to collect three points in NASL league play against MUFC, which shattered their hopes of a Spring Season title. Just a few days later the boys were dealt a massive blow, bowing out of the U.S. Open Cup at the hands of Richmond with a horrid on field display. Now the sights are set on the simplest of tasks: Secure points. Though the spring title is far off now, it does not mean the Armada stop in their tracks. Playoff positions are on the line for later this season. The two champions of the two seasons automatically are granted a spot in the playoffs, while the remaining two positions are obtained by overall points throughout the year. The thought of three points is an easy concept to grasp, but actually earning the win is the difficulty, especially against a defensively strong team like Carolina. Saturday night’s match with Carolina holds much importance than thought.
The Railhawks(2-4-2) are primarily a defensive based squad, one like the Silverbacks whom did not allow Armada any passage after giving up the lone goal on the night which resulted in a 1-1 draw. Even though the defense is stout and its the team’s best aspect, Carolina are beatable and inconsistent. A couple weeks back after taking a 2-0 lead into the 90th minute they gave up two goals to the New York Cosmos in added time to earn a draw. The next week the Railhawks traveled to Fort Lauderdale and returned home with all three points and a clean sheet leaving Lockhart as 1-0 victors. In U.S. Open Cup play, Carolina fell 1-0 to Charlotte Independence and saw their way out of the competition. Armada have suffered heartbreaking defeats this past week but as long as Guillermo’s men can break down the Railhawks defense, problems should be limited.
Carolina have a few bright spots in attack to be worried about. Nacho Novo is a Spanish forward currently with three goals and one assist on the season. At right midfield is the lethal, Tiyi Shipalane who has three goals and three assists this season and is the Railhawks most dangerous player. Defensively is a notable player to watch out for: Futty Danso. The huge Gambian defender is a beast in the back and he is also in his first season for Carolina, recently playing for Portland Timbers in the MLS.
For Jacksonville Armada the defense will be the main focal point as they look to shut down Carolina’s attack after an astonishing effort against Richmond, allowing the USL side to score three. Business should return to usual, and if Guillermo Hoyos does not switch back to the 3-4-3 formation it will be a shocker. What is important for the Armada defense is to stay sound all game and keep up the intensity. One mistake or tactical error can lead to a Carolina goal, and they will take their chances. Expect Toby and Nicklaw to be on the bench, with our back three consisting of Bahner, Ortiz, and Trejo. As long as the back line maintains focus, Jacksonville will be alright tonight.
Sadly, Alhassane Keita looks to not be available. Still nursing a hamstring injury, he should be out for possibly another week, and may miss out on the finale against New York. This means, and hopefully, that Akeil Barrett will take the starting role against the Railhawks.
Jacksonville(3-1-3) will look to continue their undefeated home form against a Carolina team level on points, and a win could take them back to second place in the NASL table. After two defeats this week already, Armada need to step it up and play with their heart on their sleeve on Saturday night. Armada versus Railhawks is a match of the rebound. How well will each team rebound after defeats to lower league opposition and what steps will be taken to ensure the three points?