By: Logan Alexander
Finally, after what seemed to be the longest five days of work and going to classes, the weekend is upon us. This simply means that we are just hours away from the second Jacksonville Armada match day of the year. After a 1-0 thriller at home to defeat FC Edmonton just this past Sunday, The Fleet and Eddies will meet Saturday night on a cold evening in Alberta in the reverse fixture of the Spring Season.
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Arguably, Clarke Stadium is one of the toughest stadiums to play at in the North American Soccer League. Of course road games are much more difficult, and you can blame an insane travel schedule or a vastly different climate than what is of comfort, but the fact of the matter is that Edmonton has created a fortress at home. In 2016, the Eddies held a record of 12-2-2 at their ground, which greatly propelled the Canadian team to the NASL playoffs. In the one meeting both teams shared last year up north, Edmonton snatched the spoils of three points from Jacksonville, winning 1-0. After poor officiating disallowed an Armada penalty late, when clearly there was a dirty challenge put in on Alhassane Keita inside the box, Edmonton took control of the match. In the 90th minute plus seven minutes of stoppage time, Daryl Fordyce converted a penalty that was called in the home team’s favor, which secured the tie and sent Edmonton flying high into the postseason.
As mentioned last week on the Bold City Soccer Show Episode, Getting Started , it was acknowledged that the winner of the opening match on Sunday would come into Week 2 with a huge swing of momentum in their favor. Jacksonville took the affair in their hands and acquired three points, taking themselves to Edmonton with a boost of confidence. The win is important for Armada, as now the pressure is on EDM to perform in front of their home support on the back foot, previously losing to this same team. Even a point would be a massive feat in Canada, but three would be special. The key for Armada in regards to their momentum from match one, is to start the game quickly and with menace, maintaining control of the ninety minutes, and setting the tone how they desire.
Do not change anything at all if you’re Jacksonville Armada.
Sunday was a success as Jacksonville managed 59% of possession while tallying more shots including three on target, one being a 77th minute goal by J.C. Banks. In attack, one area that was addressed this week in training was that of making decisions when on the ball deep in the opposition’s territory. Many times this past weekend JAX would find themselves in or around Edmonton’s penalty box, but not be efficient with the possession they held as there were noticeable break downs on offense. Be clear cut, take more risks in attack, and have a plan to carry out. Also, take more shots, please.
On the offensive side of the ball as well, continue to attack wide. Papé Diakité and Albert Watson are a force of a center-back partnership and it will be difficult to break them down throughout the full ninety minutes. Combinations on the left and right side between the wingers and fullbacks will create more opportunities for Armada and be more of a success than going straight down the middle of the pitch. Break down the weakest links of the Edmonton team, their fullbacks.
Nicklas Maripuu held a 95% pass percentage, completing 45/47 of his passes on the day, which is a remarkable number. Breaking down the direction of the pass though, 8/45 of the Swede’s combinations were passes either forward or squared to a teammate. Of these eight advancements, three were key passes that were influential to the attack: One out left to J.C. Banks on the wing, one out right to Drew Beckie advancing forward, and the last to Jack Blake during a transition from defending to attack. This leaves 37/45 of his passes throughout the game going backwards. Now, that is not entirely a bad statistic, as Maripuu is crucial in retaining possession and resetting the shape of the squad, its in his DNA. To enhance his play and influence on the field though, more forward passes and taking risks like mentioned earlier, could present a more lethal attack. At the end of the day, it is not about how much possession a team has, but how they translate that possession into creating chances and opportunities towards the opponent’s goal.
Every other aspect of the midfield was solid and dominant throughout the match, for sure. Nicklas Maripuu truly played a good game as well, don’t get me wrong. The duo of Kevan George and Nicklas Maripuu are tough to break down, sitting deep and in front of the center backs throughout the whole match. Sunday was a pleasing performance and there is not much that is necessary to change about the midfield.
One match and one clean sheet. Caleb Patterson-Sewell barely felt under pressure until the end of the match when Edmonton were searching for an equalizer. Unfortunately for him and the rest of the defense, Saturday will be a more difficult test. Edmonton at home, expect an enhanced attacking presence with more tempo than what was seen in Jacksonville. The fans will be an added presence, urging the Eddies forward throughout the match as their objective is three points. This match coming up will not be a carbon copy of the one in Jacksonville, as Edmonton will not be content sitting in defense and playing on the counter. Given the leadership of Aaron Pitchkolan and his knowledge of EDM as a team, he will be prepared for a flurry of pressure towards his defensive wall.
Projected Starting XI:
Patterson-Sewell; Beckie, Pitchkolan, Jérôme, Ryden; Maripuu, George, Blake; Steinberger, Banks; Glenn
There is no reason for any changes to the starting lineup, as these eleven players fulfilled their job in Jacksonville during Week One and deserve another match together. No one is injured or suspended for the upcoming match, leaving the opportunity for an exact lineup to be deployed for the second week running.
The Trinidad and Tobago striker will play another gritty game with two physical center backs playing on his back, not giving him hardly any window of space to work with. For the match in Edmonton, it is absolutely important for Glenn to not receive an early yellow card, or even one at all. Being a physical player as well, Glenn will get involved in challenges and fight the whole night for the ball. To play to full potential, the forward must not receive a yellow card or else he will be subjected to playing an uncomfortable style not of his own, that being careful and of safety.
Player to Watch:
The answer has got to be Aaron Pitchkolan. Pressure will mount higher as Jacksonville travel for the first time this year. Historically, Armada have only seen victory twice on the road, and to reach that height once again, the leadership of Pitchkolan will be unquestionably important. With as high as a level the Jacksonville defense played at last week, the away trip to Edmonton is about building on their first result of the season and playing with the amounts of quality. This match is huge for Pitchkolan and the rest of the defense because if they complete their job and stand firm at the back, that sets the rest of the squad up in their chase for the match.
Edmonton 1-2 Jacksonville. We see a lot of what was seen week one. Possession, but with more shots/shots on goal. Edmonton will not shy away from pressing our back line and will be playing with added motivation in front of the home support. I think Jacksonville steals three points through a late Zach Steinberger goal, shocking the home team and allowing Jacksonville to maintain their spot at the top end of the table.