Jacksonville Sports Day

NASL: Jacksonville Armada FC Wins Third-Straight Home Opener

With many new signings, early season rust and sun-drenched weather, the recipe was in place for a sleepy scoreless draw between the Jacksonville Armada FC and FC Edmonton on Sunday afternoon.

Then J.C. Banks woke things up.

In a match that did not see its first shot on goal until the 70th minute, one of the newest Boys in Blue marked his club debut with a 77th-minute goal that handed the Armada FC a 1-0 victory in front of 3,472 fans at their new home, Hodges Stadium at the University of North Florida.

With the win, Jacksonville (1-0-0 NASL Spring Season) finds itself near the top of the league table and has now won its home opener all three years in existence.

Banks’ goal came after he won the ball in midfield, ran past two defenders and beat the keeper with a left-footed strike just inside the right post.

Banks was one of seven newcomers to start for the Armada FC on Sunday, and several made their presence felt.

Perhaps the most notable was centerback and captain, Aaron Pitchkolan, who made four huge defensive plays to disrupt Edmonton scoring chances.

During their first two years in the NASL, the Armada FC avoided playing a typical home opener — the kind where chemistry and kinks are clearly being worked out, and scoring chances are at a minimum.

But that appeared to be the case against Edmonton, which boasts a sound defensive style.

Contrast that with the first-ever meeting between these teams, a 3-1 Jacksonville victory in 2015 that marked their birth as a club and set NASL records for attendance and fastest goal (12 seconds).

Early in the action Sunday, it appeared the Armada would have no trouble piling up scoring chances.

At the end of the first minute, forward Jonathan Glenn chased a long ball into the box and outran his defenders for what could have been a clear look at goal, but Eddies keeper Chris Konopka managed to beat him to it.

During the rest of the half, the Armada owned 59 percent of possession but could not convert it.

The first half’s scoring chances could be summed up by Banks missing just wide with a shot from the left side, and Pitchkolan breaking up what looked like a sure tap-in goal after a cross to Edmonton striker Tomi Ameobi.

The Armada will be back in action next Saturday at 9 p.m., when they travel north for a rematch with the Eddies.

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