Jacksonville Sports Day

NASL: Time Runs Out For Comeback in Armada’s 3-2 Loss

Photo by Rayo OKC

Sometimes the outcome does not reflect the effort, and that was evident on Sunday night in the Jacksonville Armada’s 3-2 loss to Rayo OKC at Miller Stadium.

Jacksonville (2W-4D-7L, 10 pts. NASL Fall, 3-8-12, 17 pts. Combined) had a solid attack on the night and won the shots battle, 10-7, including a dominant 8-2 second half effort. The Armada also won the possession battle in the second half (51.7-48.3 percent).

Though the advantage in key statistical categories and momentum on the pitch did not translate to a desired result in part to a pair of brilliant set pieces from Rayo OKC and an unfortunate deflection that led to an Armada own goal.

Rayo OKC nearly struck first in the 22st minute when Robbie Findley was awarded a penalty kick after being taken down in the box by Mechack Jérôme, but Armada goalkeeper Sean Lewis thwarted Findley’s attempt when he read it correctly and dove to his right.

But four minutes later, another diving effort by Lewis was not enough to stop a picture-perfect 25-yard free kick by

Rayo OKC’s Marvin Chávez that hit inside the upper 90, putting Rayo up 1-0.

The sides continued to battle it out at the midfield and trade a few off-target shots until Rayo extended its lead to 2-0 in the 58th off another set piece. Armada midfielder Nicklas Maripuu conceded a foul on the left wing, which allowed Rayo OKC’s Moises Hernandez to service a dead-on cross to a waiting Sebastian Ibeagha, who sent the ball home from just in front of the goal.

Jacksonville answered in the 62nd with another dangerous set piece of its own. Forward Jemal Johnson sent in a cross off a free kick from the wing to Kevan George, who got a head on it and deflected it off the head off Derek Boateng to set the ball up for a crashing Tyler Ruthven, who headed it into the back of the net.

It was Ruthven’s first goal for the Armada and first in the NASL since 2011 with the Atlanta Silverbacks.

Then just two minutes later, an unlucky own goal put Rayo OKC up 3-1, which proved to be the difference maker. Boateng sent a through ahead to Georgios Samaras, who attempted to cross it to the wing. Jérôme stepped in to block the attempt, but it deflected off the side of his foot and tumbled toward the goal. A stunned Lewis was not able to get in position in enough time to make a stop.

Jacksonville continued to swiftly move forward on the attack and had multiple looks down the stretch. In the second minute of stoppage time, Derek Gebhard, who had subbed in for Alhassane Keita in the 85th, made a strong run down the line in the box and was taken down by Ibeagha. It allowed Charles Eloundou to line up for a penalty kick and zoom it past a diving Daniel Fernandes to help the Armada pull to within 3-2.

After the score, Jacksonville had clearly snatched momentum, but the remaining minute of stoppage time ticked away quickly and did not allow the Armada to get another look.

Jacksonville will wrap up its three-game road swing at 7:30 p.m. next Saturday against Puerto Rico FC.

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