Fort Lauderdale Strikers 2-1 Jacksonville Armada: Birth of A Rivalry
"PC" of FTL celebrating after his wonder strike against JAX. (Photo credit: North American Soccer League)

The Armada Breakfast Club (Kyle, Darrell, Jake, Simon) brought up an interesting topic on their podcast leading up to the match on Saturday night. Rivalry. The Jacksonville Armada and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. Contemplating on what to call this derby match, there was a general consensus on the idea that Adam Garrett (Section 904, Jacksonville) presented to both of the teams suppprters groups. " How about, the Battle for the Atlantic?" Both cities lie on the Atlantic Ocean, 300 miles seperated in the Sunshine State. Not only was this rivalry set in stone due to geographical reasoning, but there was something more. As said on the Armada Breakfast Club Podcast; the rivalry between Brazil and Argentina.

The Brazilian Ronaldo joined the Strikers ownership group on December 11, 2014. The Fort Lauderdale coaching staff is heavily Brazilian, along with Managing Partner, Ricardo Geromel, who is of the same nationality. Of course that staff includes five Brazilian players, four of which started against Jacksonville. On the visitors side is a club with Argentinian dominance. This statement includes the General Manager, Dario Sala, six Argentinian players who all started Saturday night, and a pair of co-head coaches who share the same nationality as well. When one thinks of Brazil and Argentina, a thought comes to mind; bad blood between the two.

Both border countries have always been rivals with each other in sports, but soccer takes it to another level. The beautiful game is a presentation of national pride to both nations, and winning is of the biggest importance whenever they meet. This match-up was always huge, but was then fired up over time. In a match in 1939, the referee gave Brazil a penalty, and was soon verbally attacked by Argentinian player, Arcadio Lopez, which prompted police to escort him off of the pitch. His escort led the whole team to walk off the pitch, and they lost 3-2 by a penalty into an open net. In 1945 the rivalry became more fierce as Brazilian youngster Ademir Menezes fractured Batagliero's leg in a game won by Brazil. In 1946, Brazilian, Jair Rosa Pinto fractured Argentine Jose Salomon's tibia and fibia which led to fighting, even with police, and supporters encroached onto the field to join. Through the Pele-Maradona era and even until today, both countries are still bitter rivals on the pitch.

Saturday was a fast paced encounter from the start. Corners, set pieces, and great attacks set up the match to have some sort of South American vibe to it. Alhassane Keita had the first decent attempt, racing down the right side of the field to eventually slot the ball just wide of the net. Once again the pacey Keita ran down the right but the attack suddenly ended after a great challenge by the Strikers defense. The Armada were definitely in control in the first 30 minutes creating chances and having a better sense of urgency over the Strikers. Soon, Fort Lauderdale started involving Leo Moura more and more in attacks which was a bright spot in the Strikers squad. In the 44th minute, the ball was whipped in from the right side to Victor "PC" Giro, who was taken down in the box by Lucas Scaglia of Armada. A yellow was thrown out to Lucas Trejo just before the spot kick was taken. Him and fellow Armada teammates argued the spot of the ball during the penalty, but the referee was not having it. Leo Moura then converted the penalty in the top right corner of the net to provide the Strikers a 1-0 lead headed to halftime.

The second half started just as quickly as the beginning of the game with Marlon Freitas firing just over the net on the Strikers first opportunity in the half. Jacksonville regained possession and scored to make it 1-1 in the 50th minute. Lucas Scaglia received the ball on top of the box and chipped over the Strikers flat back line to Bochy Hoyos, who with a fantastic first touch, calmly slotted the ball past David Meves. The traveling support of Jacksonville Armada, Section 904, was going absolutely bonkers after witnessing their side score a clutch goal to draw them level.

A couple minutes later, Jacksonville started another attack which ended in Jemal Johnson shooting at the Strikers goal, but his shot was saved by Meves. After this attack, Fort Lauderdale began to take full control. Waves of attack came from the home team, with Freitas forcing Miguel Gallardo to save off of a header to earn a corner for FTL. The next attack led to a shot just wide by Strikers forward, Dani Sanchez. In the 65th minute came a goal of the week nominee for Fort Lauderdale. A ball from the right side found it's way to "PC" who smashed from 25 yards out into the bottom left corner. Armada had a penalty shout and called for a handball just outside the box on the Strikers, but the referee ignored it. Miguel Gallardo was in a scary situation in the 75th minute when he missed an attempt to save a cross and the ball had to quickly be cleared by Shawn Nicklaw for JAX.

After the 80th minute, the game became very chippy between the two squads. Yellow cards were flying and two players were sent off in the dying stages of the match. Armada center back, Trejo, then took a blatant arm to the face that was not called. The referee all night was dodgy, might it be acknowledged that it was his second game ever in the center of the pitch, as he is usually a fourth official. The Assistant Referee then consulted the head official, and Stefano Pinho was sent off for his actions. Lucas Trejo then received his marching orders for dissent. Three minutes were added on to the end of the game, which were all wasted due to arguing, pushing, and shoving between both sides. It was a hard game to control and the official blew the whistle to the joy of Fort Lauderdale, but frustration of Jacksonville as the score was 2-1 in favor for the home team.

The first "Battle for the Atlantic" was a heated affair and the other two meetings should be just as huge. Also, this was a big match concerning implications of the Coastal Cup, which is like the Cascadia Cup in MLS between Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland. Tampa Bay, Fort Lauderdale, and Jacksonville play each other three times each equaling out to six games played by each club. The club with the best record wins the Coastal Cup Trophy at the end of the season.

Jacksonville (1-1-0) has a bye week this weekend and will resume action on April 25th in another Coastal Cup match against Tampa Bay. Fort Lauderdale (1-1-0) travel north of the border on Sunday to take on FC Edmonton, looking to improve on their big win Saturday night.

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