The Jacksonville Armada won their third successive season opener this past Sunday at Hodges Stadium. Fans were happy to see that the summer’s uncertainty regarding the league’s status and Jacksonville’s future in that league did not trickle onto the pitch.

The match was not the most entertaining, but that was more to do with Edmonton’s tactics than the players on the pitch. The Eddies chose to sit deep, and move forward on the counter. Fortunately for the Armada, they lacked the technical ability to consistently put the ball into space. Regardless, parking the bus without the ability to counter quickly does not make for an exciting match.

Mark Lowry’s Armada side was focused and well-drilled. There are a lot of people that knock American soccer, particularly the divisions below the MLS. However, Lowry’s tactics are an absolute delight to watch and analyze.

Formations and Tactics

The Jacksonville Armada’s starting line up and formation.

Out of posession the Armada maintained a narrow 4-3-3. Lowry’s team pressed high up the pitch, often winning the ball back where they lost it. There was a bit of trouble when the press failed though.

The Eddies found space out wide due to the narrow full backs.

With the full backs tucked in and the press broken, the Eddies found plenty of running room down the flanks. Despite the multiple crosses pinged in, the pairing of Pitchkolan and Jerome were up to the task of clearing.

Once in possession of the ball the Armada enacted a formation switch and played with an incredibly high back line.

With the ball the Armada quickly switched to an aggressive 3-4-3.

Kevan George dropped to play as the ball-playing center back, with the full backs pushing forward to provide extra width. Last year the Armada averaged less than a goal a match. Overloading the final third with seven players in attack is an obvious, and exciting, step in rectifying goal scoring problems.

Complex Tactics with Blue Collar Attitude

The knock on football below the elite level is that it is often basic in terms of tactics and strategy. The complaints are usually the same, that all the teams play 4-4-2 with a target man holding the ball up for a poacher, or they play 4-4-2 counter with a target man knocking it down to a poacher.

Mark Lowry’s intelligence and daring tactics set the Armada above such critiques. The 4-3-3 is currently utilized by some of the worlds elite clubs, including Barcelona and Liverpool. The 3-4-3 has led Chelsea F.C. to the top of the Premier League. The Jacksonville Armada are utilizing both formations contextually within a match.

That being said the Armada demonstrated one quality that the elite teams often neglect, physical grit. The Armada lads ran themselves into the ground, pressing, getting back into position, and attempting to exploit space. Aaron Pitchkolan and the other defenders put their bodies on the line time and time again.

What Comes Next?

The Armada travel to face Edmonton in the reverse fixture before returning home to face the San Francisco Deltas on April 15th. The Armada is off to a great start, and Lowry has the team playing some exciting football. Definitely worth the trip to Hodges Stadium!