Jacksonville Sports Day

NASL: Armada Dominate RailHawks in 3-0 Win

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – On Wednesday night, the Jacksonville Armada FC dominated the Carolina RailHawks in 3-0 win and avenged its only home loss this season.

Off the opening kickoff, Alhassane Keita made a run at the net. When he was rebuked, the RailHawks mounted a counterattack, but they were called offside when their forward got behind the defenders too quickly. Within five minutes, however, Carolina was pressuring the Armada defense, forcing them to concede three corners.

After the third corner in the fifth minute, things went silent as the Armada and RailHawks traded Shawn Nicklaw and Pascal Millien crosses with Nacho Novo runs offside. Everything changed in the 32nd minute when Armada forward Akeil Barrett ripped a shot from the top of the box. Although Carolina goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald knocked it away, Armada midfielder Jaime Castrillón was positioned perfectly, volleying the deflection into the back of the net.

Not wanting to be passive in the attack, the Armada (2W-1D-4L NASL Fall, 5-4-8 Combined) continued their high-powered offense the very next minute. Though he hadn’t scored on his first four shots, Barrett was not deterred from being aggressive. Luckily for him, the fifth shot did the trick.

“I saw the spot open up and the defender was moving to my left, so I thought it would be a good decision to shoot,” Barrett said.

And a good decision it was. The ball raced across the ground and beat the ‘keeper to the bottom right corner.

Armada head coach Guillermo Hoyos said the continual attack is something he favors for his side.

“Right after we score that first goal, we don’t want to go back and hold that one-goal lead,” said Hoyos. “We want to keep attacking, attacking, attacking, and that’s what I’m very happy (about the offense scoring right after their first goal).”

With the offense staying on top of Carolina’s defense, it was tough for the RailHawks to muster any strength in their attacking half. Novo seemed to be the only player who could find an open space. Unfortunately for him, it always seemed to be offside. Hoyos said it was a hallmark of his defense to put Carolina’s offense in this situation.

“Our defense was taking away the ball so we didn’t get attacked by (Carolina),” Hoyos said. “You could see (our defense) get a lot of offsides because we’re trying to push the line up.”

One of the defenders having a successful time against the RailHawks was Nicklaw. Nicklaw, who received a red card in the last home match, continually pressed up the right flank and sent in cross after cross.

“It felt good personally,” said Nicklaw. “But it’s a team effort, and we were just clicking on all cylinders today.”

The second half proved to be a continuation of the first. The offensive attack, led by Jemal Johnson, continued to stay on top of the RailHawks’ defense. In the 62nd minute, Johnson’ efforts paid off when he fired a bullet from the outside of the box into the right side of the net.

When the final horns sounded, the crowd of 5,652 roared at the victory. The Armada FC had won another home match and no matter what player or coach was spoken to, the reason for success at home was the same: the fans.

“It’s definitely our fans,” Johnson said. “They always get behind us, and it’s a great crowd for us and they get all excited and amped for the game. (Playing at home) is a good chance to play in front of some good people.”

The RailHawks (2-2-3, 5-7-5) are the first team the Armada have been able to avenge a loss against. Saturday they will try to do it twice in a row when they take on the Atlanta Silverbacks, a team they’ve lost to twice so far. Nicklaw knows that they need to channel their success against the RailHawks and bring it to the match against the Silverbacks.

“We’re going to enjoy the result tonight, but then we’ve got to focus on Saturday,” he said. “Overall, we’re starting to get momentum now, so hopefully we can continue into (Atlanta).”

Tickets to Saturday’s match at Community First Park, which kicks off at 7:30 p.m. ET, can be purchased by calling 1.844.2.Armada or visiting armadafc.com.

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