Jacksonville Sports Day

NASL: Armada Cap Off Season With Comeback Victory Over Tampa Bay

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — With two goals in 60 seconds during the final 10 minutes of the match, Jacksonville Armada FC completed a 3-2 comeback victory over the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Sunday afternoon at Community First Park.

The win boosted the Armada out of last place in the NASL Fall Standings and sent the rival Rowdies — who announced their departure for the USL this week — out of the league with a nice parting gift.

It also proved to be an excellent final showing for midfielder Zach Steinberger, who tallied two assists and then the winning goal in the 84th minute.

It started in the 83rd, when Jemal Johnson backpedaled to get in front of a long corner from Steinberger, then calmly lofted a chipped shot over the keeper and several defenders to tie the score 2-2.

Steinberger ran onto a pass from substitute Derek Gebhard, took a touch and then slotted home the winner. He sprinted to the corner flag, leapt and pumped his fist before being mobbed by teammates, a deserved release of emotion after sealing a match they had dominated on the stat sheet but not the score line.

The Armada had 67 percent possession and more than twice as many shots as the Rowdies, but they fell behind due to two defensive miscues. After scoring 36 seconds into the last home match, Charles Eloundou nearly got the Armada off to a blazing start again. But in the second minute, he saw his shot deflect off keeper Chris Glodack and then the post to keep it out.

At that point, it would have been fair to expect a dominant performance from the Boys in Blue. After all, the visiting Rowdies were without their top three attacking options and started several seldom-used players, including Glodack (first pro start) and former teen phenom Freddy Adu (only 46 minutes played this season).

But Tampa Bay midfielder Martin Vingaard put an end to that notion.

In the fourth minute, he took possession 40 yards from goal, spied Jacksonville keeper Miguel Gallardo off his line, and smashed a ball over his head and into the net for a 1-0 lead The Rowdies doubled their lead in the 19th, when Michael Nanchoff whipped in a left-footed free kick and Keith Savage directed a looping header over Gallardo.

But just seconds after Nanchoff put a cross of the back post, the Armada came surging back.

Steinberger played a nifty back heel to Alhassane Keita, who first-timed a low, left-footed shot past Glodack to cut into the lead.

That scoreline held into the half, but the Armada were unlucky not to at least draw level.

In the 33rd, an Armada clearance bounced toward the Tampa goal, and Keita and Glodack raced toward each other to collect it. When Glodack reached down to scoop it up just inside the 18-yard box, Keita poked it away and walked the ball into the goal but was whistled for a foul

That set up a contentious finish to the half, which reached a fever pitch in the 41st when Steinberger ran into the box, Glodack came out too far, and the Armada seemed destined to score. But in the mad scramble that ensued, they couldn’t get off a clear shot.

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