An atrocious week has passed which left the Jacksonville Armada with three losses against Minnesota(2-3) and Carolina(0-4) in NASL play and a loss to Richmond(0-3) in the U.S. Open Cup. Without Alhassane Keita in the lineup, Jacksonville are lack luster in attack and have not been able to produce goals which has been a huge blow to the squad. Along with a shortage of goals, the defense has suffered tremendously to two offenses who have not been superb on the attacking side of the ball this year. Reverting to a four in the back has led to opponents scoring seven goals and obviously Armada are not a team that fits the formation, yet Guillermo Hoyos continues to play with it. Unfortunately there is a feeling that Jacksonville will roll out with a 4-3-3 on the lineup sheet on Sunday against Ottawa.
Alhassane Keita has been ruled out of Sunday’s match, still nursing a hamstring injury suffered against Atlanta Silverbacks and reports are that he will not be available until the fall season. Akeil Barrett also will be unavailable for Ottawa after picking up a hamstring strain and he is uncertain to feature in the spring season finale against the New York Cosmos.
Ottawa Fury FC(2-3-3) are unbeaten in three matches securing two draws and a 1-0 win against Indy Eleven. Currently, the Canadian side sit 10th in the NASL standings with nine points, only one point behind 7th placed Jacksonville Armada who have ten. Ottawa struggle in the attacking third, scoring just five goals in eight matches and leading goalscorer Nicki Paterson has two goals as a midfielder. Between five strikers, Ottawa has scored only one goal in over 2,100 minutes combined on the pitch. The lone goal has come from Tom Heinemann, who is not even a regular starter. Julian De Guzman, star midfielder for the Canadian National Team, also has made little to none impact for the Fury, recording just one assist in seven matches.
Once again, Jacksonville will face the test of a strong defense, the second best in the league allowing eight goals in just as many games. Rafael Alves is the notable player to focus on along the back line for Ottawa, starting in every match this season and even has a goal to his name. In past weeks, Jacksonville has been unable to exploit defensive minded teams in Carolina and Atlanta, so it will be interesting to see what changes are made to ensure the boys in blue receive all three points against a sound defensive team, Ottawa Fury FC.
What changes need to be made for the Jacksonville Armada? No matter if Tommy Krizanovic starts up front or any other forward, Marcos Flores has got to play in the central attacking midfield role. Flores is a better finisher and player, but without him in the midfield no one is creating opportunities for the forwards, an area we struggled at last week. In the second half against Carolina, Akeil Barrett came on and Flores set up underneath the striker. Instantly more chances were created and Armada looked more dangerous in the attack, threatening the net time after time for a goal and we were unlucky not to put one past the Railhawks keeper. Knowing Coach Hoyos, it is likely that Marcos Flores will start at striker instead of central attacking midfield, a move he has made already this season.
Another hopeful change for Jacksonville is the switch back to a 3-4-3 formation instead of having four in the back. Joseph Toby and Shawn Nicklaw have looked only average at the fullback position in the 4-3-3 formation and with seven goals allowed since the change, Guillermo should make yet another switch back to the formation Jacksonville has had the most success with: 3-4-3. Ottawa plays a classic and defensive 4-3-3 having Nicki Paterson sit in front of the Fury back line at defensive midfield. If Jacksonville deploy four in the midfield in the preferred formation it would allow for us to control the possession and the tempo of the game, possibly leading to plenty of more chances in the attacking third.
PREDICTION: Jacksonville Armada 3-1 Ottawa Fury FC. Pascal Millien and Jemal Johnson are going to absolutely tear up the Ottawa defense on the wings and will have their best games of the year against a decent but not amazing Fury side. 3-1 is a valid prediction especially if Marcos Flores is playing in the CAM position and can string together attacks all afternoon. Our back line will concede a goal, like always, but Ottawa will not be able to score more than one due to a horrid attacking line.
BOLD PREDICTION: TOMMY KRIZANOVIC SCORES HIS FIRST CAREER GOAL FOR ARMADA.
Jacksonville have already been knocked out of the running to win the spring season title but playoff spots are on the line. The NASL is a tight league and Armada are only two points off the bottom of the table. It is important for JAX to secure as many points as possible to better their positioning in such a close league. With a win, Armada will go back to fifth in the table with 13 points and in a decent position leading up to the fall season in hopes of making the playoffs.