Four second half goals, including two by Allan Morgan, helped Jacksonville Armada U-23 blow past Kraze United, 4-2, in NPSL action at Patton Park on Saturday evening.
The second half explosion, which included three scores within the first nine minutes after the break, helped Armada U-23 and head coach Pat Cannon rally to the first win in team history. Early on, however, it appeared as if the match would have a much different ending.
“We came out flat (in the first half), but they had a fantastic response in the second half,” said head coach Pat Cannon. “We had three goals within the first nine minutes, and that’s the kind of soccer I expect us to play. We have so many creative players, and I think we finally molded it all in the second half.”
After a halftime challenge in the locker room from Cannon, Armada U-23 came out in the second half with a clear urgency. Within the first minute of the new period, Victor Rojas, who tallied two assists on the night, placed it perfectly into a waiting Morgan, who blasted it past Kraze United goalkeeper Marco Lujan.
Five minutes later, Leo De Smedt hit the equalizer for Armada U-23. Then three minutes later, Rojas fed Morgan again, who knocked it in to give his team a 3-2 lead.
“Allan has been scoring a lot for us in 11v11 in practice,” Cannon said. “He’s one of those players that likes to pick up the second balls like on his first goal. He’s probably been our most consistent player. I might not have expected a two-goal performance, but I wasn’t too shocked.”
Ivo Lima, who came on for Rojas in the 75th minute, put the icing on the cake in the second minute of stoppage time when he took a pass from JJ Donnelly around the penalty area and slid it into the bottom left corner.
Kraze United, based out of Orlando, appeared to be in firm control of the match in the first half. Lee Wattam broke away from Armada U-23 defenders in the 10th minute and blasted a shot past a diving Kyle Nasta and into the back of the net to put Kraze United up 1-0.
In the 26th, the momentum pendulum shifted even further toward Kraze when Armada U-23 captain Diogo Quirino conceded a foul just inside the box, which awarded Kraze United a penalty kick. Kraze’s Charlie Dennis was able to slot it home past Nasta to increase its lead to 2-0.
Armada U-23 had several solid looks in the first half, but was not able to convert. The most prevalent chance was in the 37th minute when De Smedt led a breakaway into the attacking third and flew in an impressive cross near the goal that just missed a waiting Rojas.
Rojas had another chance two minutes later off a set piece from 23-yards out, but his free kick sailed just over the goal.
“This was a huge momentum-builder for us,” Cannon said. “We’ve got two on the road next weekend, so it was huge for us to finish like that. I’m very proud of the effort in the second half.”
Win the win, Armada U-23 improves to 1-1-0 in the NPSL Sunshine Conference, while Kraze United drops to 0-1-0.
Armada U-23 will push ahead for two matches next weekend away from Jacksonville, starting with a tilt with Storm FC at 7 pm next Friday in Pembroke Pines, Fla., followed by a 7 pm showdown with Weston FC on Sunday, May 29 at Broward College.