By: Logan Alexander
Two months and one day removed, Jacksonville Armada are still in search of their first win since defeating Indy Eleven at home. Just take a brief moment and recollect your thoughts to the night of May 9th. Armada saw out three points to win 1-0 that evening. Nine points overall, 2nd place in the NASL table, and an undefeated home record struck a chord to the rest of the league and was a highly successful beginning to the life of Armada. Snap back into reality. Our beloved sit 9th in the league over the whole year and are vying for a first win in nine games. Maximum points in Atlanta on Saturday night is a necessity.
Atlanta fall into the same boat when it comes to a winless streak. The Silverbacks currently sit rock bottom in the league with just eight points and their last victory has come just shy of three months ago when they faced Carolina away from home. Other than a U.S. Open Cup victory against Chattanooga FC, Atlanta has experienced a difficult period of time in the league. A Terminus Legion member, the supporters group for Atlanta Silverbacks, is quoted as to saying “This team is pathetic” and rightfully so. In the first week of the fall season, Atlanta suffered another disappointing defeat which was 2-1 at the hands of Tampa Bay, further cementing the team to the bottom of the league overall.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here because Jacksonville Armada have played pitifully over the past month as well, disregarding a thrilling 3-3 draw at New York City. Last week the boys in blue fell at the hands of Ottawa Fury FC, a team who should be capable to defeat, but the job was left unfinished with a 2-0 scoreline in favor of the Canadian side. Constantly throughout the match Ottawa flourished on the counter attack and absorbed Jacksonville’s pressure very well, while capitalizing on poor mistakes in our defensive third. Watching the match it felt as if Ottawa built a ‘Wall of Jericho’ that no one could not knock down; nothing was going through that defense. The loss left the Floridian club just four points from the bottom of the league where Atlanta sit.
Last time these two teams met they drew 1-1 at Silverbacks Park. Atlanta took the lead in under a minute by a Hans Denissen goal that tore apart the back line of Jacksonville. Alhassane Keita equalized twenty minutes later when Marcos Flores threaded a peach of a ball through to the striker who finished clinically past the Atlanta goalkeeper, Steward Ceus. This strike was Keita’s last goal in the league. Jacksonville failed to break down a strong Atlanta defense and the game ended all square, one that Armada dominated but lacked in attack.
Huge question marks are being raised after Guillermo Hoyos signed on to a four-year contract to continue as manager for Jacksonville Armada FC regarding tactical analysis of the squad, formations, and even transfers for goodness sake. At second to last in the league, allowing 20 goals in eleven games, how have Jacksonville not made any moves to solidify a back line that has lacked in quality? This is one of the bigger questions in a string of so many. “When will Armada finally win again?” is another that people have been discussing. Truthfully, who knows if we will score three points in Atlanta. This team is too unpredictable and it seems that as long as we are unable to put out our full first team lineup, it will be a long-suffering run of draws and losses. Jacksonville finds success on the pitch when Keita, Pascal Millien, Marcos Flores, and Jemal Johnson are all on at the same time and we have not been able to view that attacking line since the first half of when we last met Atlanta, which was May 16th. When one player is missing, ex. Keita due to his hamstring injury, the formation and starting eleven is dramatically changed and tactically the team is failed, a lead to our demise and falling in places. The formula is easy to recognize and as long as Hoyos continues his consistent game plan, we are doomed until Millien returns from Gold Cup.
Once again, Armada will have to face a defensive heavy team who has also made a new addition on the back line. Mohammed Bin Issahaku has been added to the Atlanta roster, one who has ties to the Norcross area where Atlanta Silverbacks are located. The 6’2 defenseman played for Atlanta back in 2013 and has returned after a stint with El Salvadoran side, Club Deportivo FAS. While in El Salvador, Issahaku featured in the CONCACAF Champions League, even scoring a goal. The important features to note about the player is his experience and physicality while on the field. Atlanta were not done with one signing during the week as they also inked twin brothers Paulo and Pedro Mendes, a forward and midfielder. These two signings are key in regards to helping build a stronger midfield and attacking line to a team that lacks in those two departments. Lastly, MLS veteran and defender Kosuke Kimura has joined Atlanta Silverbacks in what has been a busy week for the Georgia side.
Pascal Millien will be out of action against Atlanta as stated earlier. The forward is currently serving on international duty for his home country of Haiti in the Gold Cup. The status of Akeil Barrett is also under question as the attacking player is returning from suffering a hamstring injury late into the Spring Season. Nico Zaldana is still nursing an injury and Chaim Roserie continuously awaits FIFA approval to be able to play for Jacksonville Armada in league play.
One notable loss for Atlanta is starting goalkeeper, Steward Ceus, who is also on international duty with the Haitian National Team. His absence allows for back-up C.J. Cochran to achieve his second consecutive start for Atlanta.
Atlanta 2-1 Jacksonville. Our defense sucks. Plain and simple. While its likely that Hoyos will change nothing in this squad, Atlanta have made impressive signings this week and their attack will catch fire against an Armada defense who has been absolutely awful in the recent weeks. If Atlanta were to receive their first win in three months against anyone, the ideal opponent right now would be Jacksonville Armada who have gone two months without a win of their own. When you look at the starting eleven at 6:30pm EST, if Flores is listed as a striker/center forward then prepare for the worst possible outcome. This point has been stressed constantly and it is still in my belief that if Marcos Flores is played as a striker, Armada will receive no results. Maybe Guillermo Hoyos will figure out that the Argentine is our main playmaker and needs to pull strings in the center of the park. Probably not though if he has not figured it out on his own yet. Regardless of the fact, we need three points and Armada will be in my prayers.