Armada FC Public Relations
CARY, N.C. – After a grueling week of action with three games in seven days and a total of 300-plus minutes played, the Jacksonville Armada was able to notch its first clean sheet of the season and get a point on the road in a scoreless draw with the Carolina RailHawks on Saturday evening at WakeMed Soccer Park.
The match, which was delayed nearly an hour and a half due to lightning in the area, featured an even number of scoring chances for each side. Both goalkeepers – Jacksonville’s Miguel Gallardo and Carolina’s Akira Fitzgerald – both had their share of showcase saves.
“I thought the performance was good,” said Tony Meola, Armada FC head coach. “Clearly we played a very good team in Carolina. They attacked very well, but I thought we were pretty organized for the most part. In the second half, we had our opportunities to win the game, but we’ll take the point on the road.”
The Armada (1W-3D-5L, 6 pts., 11th NASL Spring) were able to get six shots on goal to the RailHawks’ two and recorded 50 percent shot accuracy compared to Carolina’s 28.6 percent.
Jacksonville fired first when it broke away off a counter the eighth minute and Alhassane Keita squared up from distance to fire a rocket to the bottom right corner of the goal, but a diving Fitzgerald made a clutch save.
Jacksonville had another strong chance in the 19th when it was awarded a free kick from 20 yards out. Junior Sandoval was able to curl it around a sturdy Carolina wall, but Fitzgerald made another diving stop.
The RailHawks (4-2-3, 14 pts., 5th NASL Spring) came closest to getting on the board in the first half when their corner kick flew in, took a couple of bounces at the top of the box and was blasted on goal, but Miguel Gallardo was able to make an acrobatic save to clear it out just before the ball went in.
Danny Barrow, who was voted the Farah and Farah Man of the Match by fans, orchestrated perhaps the Armada’s most prime opportunity of the match in the 60th minute. He demonstrated some masterful dribbling through the box and passed it off to Keita, who crossed it into Jemal Johnson, who was right in front of the goal. But Carolina’s Drew Beckie proved to be in the right place at just the right time and prevented Johnson from getting contact with the ball and cleared it out.
Carolina’s Austin da Luz gave the Armada quite a challenge, taking four dangerous shots on the night, including one in second half stoppage time from the center of the box that sailed just high. The RailHawks also had a close call in the 59th when their corner kick flew straight through the box for a waiting Connor Tobin on the far post, but he just missed getting a head on it.
It was the first time in series history the sides played to a draw and the first time Jacksonville came away from WakeMed Soccer Park without a defeat. With its 1-1 draw with Indy Eleven last Saturday, it was the first time since April the Armada has been able to string together two-straight positive results in league play (Jacksonville defeated Miami FC 2-1 on April 15 and drew 1-1 with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers on April 23).
"It was a pretty entertaining game for nil-nil I thought," Meola said. "(There were) chances at both ends, and we had two teams that tried to play the game right. I was really proud of the guys because this is not an easy place to come and get a shutout. They should feel good about the work they did."
Jacksonville will return home on Saturday, June 11 to host in-state rivals, the Tampa Bay Rowdies, in a Coastal Cup battle and the Spring Season finale.
Kickoff is set for 4 p.m., and following the fixture, the Armada FC is hosting a watch party at the stadium for the U.S. Men's National Team's COPA America Centenario match against Paraguay (7 p.m.).
Tickets for the evening start at $11 for groups and $13 for individuals and can be purchased by calling 1.844.2.ARMADA or visiting armadafc.com/tickets. The club has also introduced a special Family 4-Pack promotion for the match, which includes four tickets, four hot dogs, four 16 ounce sodas and four bags of chips starting at $60.