Pro Hockey News

Sunday, April 17, 2016

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Black Defeats Red In Front Of Record Crowd

ATHENS, Ga. – Tae Crowder rushed for two touchdowns and Aaron Davis returned an interception 98 yards for another as the Black team defeated the Red team 34-14 in the annual G-Day Game on Saturday. A record 93,000 fans attended the game at Sanford Stadium.

The 93,000 fans almost doubled Georgia’s previous G-Day attendance record of 46,815 set in 2015. Georgia-native and notable rapper Ludicras performed just before the teams ran onto the field on a stage behind the East end zone.

“[It’s] A special moment to know that the fan base has your back and has got your programs’ back,” head coach Kirby Smart said. “But they came and they came in groves and I appreciate that. Our kids appreciate that…It speaks volumes for where Georgia is heading and what Georgia can do…What a great atmosphere to come out and compete in. I can’t say enough about our fan base and what they were able to do.”

Georgia’s quarterbacks rotated in on both sides of the ball. Freshman Jacob Eason went 19-29 for 244 yards and a touchdown exclusively for the Red team, while Brice Ramsey finished 16-25 for 224 yards for both teams. Greyson Lambert posted an 11-22 outing for 140 yards on both sides, and Nick Robinson added a 5-7 line with 49 yards and a touchdown.

“We tried to balance out the quarterbacks and they came out almost dead even,” Smart said. “I thought all three of those kids competed hard. They communicated well in the hole…They did a good job in executing the offense.”

Crowder and Sony Michel carried the load for the Black squad, combining for 14 carries and 67 yards, a 4.8 average per carry. On the opposite side, Shaquery Wilson led the Red team with nine carries for 24 yards and a touchdown, while Brendan Douglas contributed three carries for 13 yards.

On the receiving end, Reggie Davis led all players with 134 yards on six receptions for the Red team. Riley Ridley added four receptions for 68 yards and Isaac Nauta caught six balls for 56 yards and a touchdown. The Black team was led by Jayson Stanley with four receptions for 87 yards.

Defensively, sophomore D’Andre Walker led the Black squad’s pass rush with four sacks for a combined loss of 27 yards. Juwan Taylor led the Black team in tackles with seven, while Aaron Davis added three and the interception for a touchdown. The Red team was led by Reggie Carter with six tackles and Quincy Mauger with five tackles and a pass breakup.

“We’ve got to get more physical up front on defense,” Smart said. “I think it hurts us to have some guys out on the defensive line. I think we are going to run better and run the ball better.”

The Black team struck first on a Rodrigo Blankenship 46-yard field goal late in the first quarter. The Black team added to its lead when Crowder plunged into the end zone from two yards out early in the second. Blankenship tacked on another field goal to make it 13-0 with 3:27 left in the first half.

The Red team marched on a 12-play drive late in the half and an Eason-to-Nauta touchdown connection narrowed the score to 13-7 with 33 seconds remaining.

Nick Robinson led the Black team to a scoring drive early in the second half, capping the drive with a four-yard pass to fullback Christian Payne. Leading 20-7 and with the Red team driving, Davis picked off the Lambert pass at his own two-yard line and returned it all the way for the 27-7 lead.

Wilson ran in a touchdown from seven yards early in the fourth, but the 27-14 deficit was as close as the Red team would come. Crowder added his second touchdown midway through the fourth quarter to cap the scoring and finish off the 34-14 victory.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

NASL: Jacksonville Armada win Home Opener 2-1

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – For Jacksonville Armada head coach Tony Meola and his team, Friday night could not have gone any better in the North American Soccer League (NASL)  home opener at Community First Park at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.
A crowd of 5,112 watched a 2-1 win over expansion rival Miami FC. The teams combined for five yellow cards and 28 fouls in a battle that had fans on the edge of their seats until the final whistle sounded.
“(Our fans) are great here,” Meola said. “They were loud tonight as always. I think that will continue to grow as we get through to the summer. Hopefully we get some more wins and we build something here. They really helped us tonight.”
The Armada found the back of the net first in the 20th minute when Midfielder Junior Sandoval blasted a rocket from the top right corner of the box that Miami FC goalkeeper Daniel Vega swiped at but could not make contact. Earlier a Mechack Jerome free kick barely missed the goal.
“I saw the opening, took the shot and I was lucky enough for it to go in,” Sandoval said. “It feels good to get this first win. Now we’re going on the road again and hopefully get three points down (in Fort Lauderdale."
Miami FC set up a bottleneck of traffic in front of the Armada goal. The congestion helped Miami forward Dario Cvitanich find his mark on a header in the 26th after getting a feed from defender Adailton for the equalizer.
But in the 36th minute, the Armada’s second-leading goal scorer from 2015, Pascal Millien, put Jacksonville back up 2-1 when he slid in a bouncing shot from the top left of the box in heavy traffic.
“I was proud of them in the first half because the reality was it wasn’t going well in the first half but they rolled up their sleeves for 10 minutes when they had to,” Meola said. “That’s also important in soccer to do, so I’m really proud of the effort.”
Miami FC fell inches short of tying it in the 59th minute when Blake Smith one-timed it from the top left corner off a Jonathan Borrajo cross, but Armada goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo made diving save to keep his team on top. 
Moments later, Smith fired another blast that at first glance appeared that it had a chance to go in. But perhaps a stroke of luck made sure the ball did not cross the line as it hit both posts and rattled out just in time.
Jacksonville dominated the aerial battle, winning the ball in the air nearly 61 percent of the time and also held a 54-46 percent possession advantage.
Gallardo finished with three saves while Sandoval was vital to the attack, creating three chances and converting on 89.6 percent of his 67 passes.
With the win, the Armada moved to fourth on the NASL table and to the top of the Coastal Cup standings.
The Armada will return to action at 7 p.m. next Saturday when it heads south to take on the Fort Lauderdale Strikers at Lockhart Stadium. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

NASL NOTEBOOK: Cosmos, RailHawks Look To Stay Hot In Week 3 Action

Miami FC is set to play its third match against a Florida side when it visits Jacksonville Armada FC on Friday night, searching for the first win in club history. The Carolina RailHawks (vs. Ottawa Fury FC) and the New York Cosmos (at Indy Eleven) hope to remain hot after picking up wins in each of their first two contests.

Here is a preview of all five matches in Week 3 of the Spring Season:

Jacksonville Armada FC vs. Miami FC
7 p.m. ET | Friday, April 15
Community First Park | Jacksonville, Fla.
Watch | beIN SPORTS (National - U.S., Canada), (National - Canada), CW17 (Local - Jacksonville), International outlets*

Jacksonville (0W-0D-1L, 0 points) gets ready for its home opener after a 2-0 loss on the road to the New York Cosmos. Despite the loss, there were promising signs for the club's new coach, Tony Meola, in his first game in charge. In particular, the Armada FC opened the game brightly and will want to do the same against visiting Miami FC in an all-Florida affair.

Miami (0-2-0, 2) has also gotten off to quick starts in games, but coach Alessandro Nesta's side hasn't been able to hold onto leads - conceding a late penalty in back-to-back matches. Dario Cvitanich, a veteran Argentine striker, has netted twice in as many games and should once again be the main attacking force for the expansion side.

Carolina RailHawks vs. Ottawa Fury FC
7:30 p.m. ET | Saturday, April 16
WakeMed Soccer Park | Cary, N.C.
Watch | ESPN3 (National - U.S.), TWC SportsChannel (Regional - North/South Carolina), WRAL2 (Local - Raleigh/Cary), Rogers TV (Local - Ottawa)

Midfielder Austin da Luz is off to the fastest start in the NASL this year. He has scored two game-winning headers for Carolina (2-0-0, 6) and has three goals overall. The RailHawks have come from behind twice so far, showing resilience and a much different energy than in past seasons.

Ottawa (0-1-1, 1) nearly came away with three points on the road in Indianapolis last Saturday, but a late goal left them with just a point. For Fury FC, though, it was a performance to build on as the club prepares for its trip to Cary, N.C. Idan Vered scored his first NASL goal in his first start, while Julian de Guzman, Ottawa and Canada's captain, is coming off a strong effort in central midfield.

Indy Eleven vs. New York Cosmos
7:30 p.m. ET | Saturday, April 16
Carroll Stadium | Indianapolis, Ind.
Watch | ONE World Sports (National - U.S.), (National - U.S., Canada), WISH-TV (Local - Indianapolis)

When Indy and New York have met in the past, it has always been the same result: a draw. Both sides will look to change the equation Saturday night. Indy (0-2-0, 2) is coming off back-to-back draws, but should have momentum after Nemanja Vukovic's 89th-minute equalizer rescued a point in the club's home opener. Indy's veteran lineup under new coach Tim Hankinson hopes to thwart the red-hot defending champion Cosmos.

New York (2-0-0, 6) has scored five goals to open the season. Jairo Arrieta (one goal, one assist) and Juan Arango (two goals, one assist) have formed a strong partnership in the attacking third, while the Croatian international Niko Kranjcar added an assist in his first start with the team. More importantly, the Cosmos have yet to concede a goal as the back line, plus goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer, has looked impenetrable.

Tampa Bay Rowdies vs. FC Edmonton
7:30 p.m. ET | Saturday, April 16
Al Lang Stadium | St. Petersburg, Fla.
Watch | ESPN3 (National - U.S.), (National - Canada), BHSN 1147 (Local - St. Petersburg/Tampa Bay)

Tampa Bay (0-2-0, 2) was able to earn a point on the road when Georgi Hristov converted late from the penalty spot in Miami. The Rowdies peppered Miami FC's goal in the draw, but were thwarted by strong goalkeeping from Mario Daniel Vega. Coach Stuart Campbell's men will want to carry that effort into the match against visiting FC Edmonton.

The Eddies (0-1-1, 1) were unable to pick up points in their home opener, falling, 2-0, to visiting Minnesota. Edmonton, though, will receive a boost on the back line with its captain, Albert Watson, returning from his one-game red card suspension. The Eddies will also look to get their attack going after being shut out in the first two matches of the year.

Minnesota United vs. Fort Lauderdale Strikers
8 p.m. ET | Saturday, April 16
NSC Stadium | Blaine, Minn.
Watch | ESPN3 (National - U.S.), (National - Canada), MY29 (Local - Twin Cities), SFL-TV (Local - Fort Lauderdale)

Minnesota (1-0-1, 3) picked up its first win of the season on the strength of Ben Speas' delightful double. The Loons' attack was threatening throughout their 2-0 win over the Eddies and the club's back line was much more assured than in its opening-weekend performance. United will be at home this weekend for the first time in the Spring Season and coach Carl Craig's side will aim to give its home supporters plenty to cheer about.

The Strikers (0-1-0, 1) were idle this past weekend, but now head north to take on the Loons. Fort Lauderdale was able to earn a draw against Miami in its first match of the season, thanks to a late penalty converted by Maicon Santos. Jose Angulo could be one player to watch for the Strikers, as he has had a knack for scoring against Minnesota recently, notching three goals against the Loons last season. Fort Lauderdale will also get its first chance to face off against Stefano Pinho, who claimed the Golden Boot and Golden Ball during his time with the Strikers last year.

NASL: Armada Opens Home Schedule with Coastal Cup Battle Against Miami

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The long wait for the North American Soccer League regular season to return to Jacksonville will end at 7 p.m. tonight when the Jacksonville Armada hosts expansion side Miami FC at Community First Park in a Coastal Cup battle.

Jacksonville is coming off a tough 2-0 season-opening loss at the NASL defending champions New York Cosmos last Sunday despite looking like the better squad in the first 29 minutes.

 A Jairo Arrietta goal off a Juan Arango assist turned the tide, however, in the 29th minute to give the home side momentum. The Cosmos went on to add an extra cushion in the 55th minute when midfielder Adam Moffat found the back of the net.

The Armada was not able to capitalize on its 10-0 advantage in corner kick opportunities and held a 68.2-31.8 percentage advantage in aerial duels.

Miami FC has gotten off to a solid start, tallying two straight draws with the most recent result coming the form of a 1-1 knot with in-state foes, the Tampa Bay Rowdies, last Saturday in Miami's home opener. Miami FC took the lead on a 17th minute Dario Cvitanich goal but was not able to retake it after an 85th minute score from Tampa Bay's Georgi Hristov.

Miami drew 1-1 with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers on April 2 in a similar storyline where it lost the lead on a late goal.

If the Armada can put three points on the board Friday night, it can not only move up to the middle of the table but also move to the top of the Coastal Cup standings. Miami FC currently leads the standings with two points.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

AFL: Sharks Prepare for Home Opener Against Predators

JACKSONVILLE - The Jacksonville Sharks look for a second straight win as the team will open up its 2016 home slate against the in-state rival Orlando Predators on Monday, April 18. Kickoff for “Redneck Night” at Sea Best Field is set for 7 p.m.

Monday’s game will be the first of three meetings between Jacksonville (1-1) and Orlando (2-0) this season. The Predators took two of the three regular-season matchups a year ago, but the Sharks won when it mattered most, defeating Orlando by a 55-33 count in the opening round of the playoffs.

Last week, the Sharks fired on all cylinders, never trailing en route to a 59-41 victory over the Philadelphia Soul. The game remained close into the third quarter before Jacksonville broke it open by scoring 24 consecutive points.

QB Tommy Grady  21 completions for 326 yards and seven touchdowns with no turnovers. With his dominant performance, Grady became the league leader in passing yards with 605 total yards in two games. 

Grady’s chemistry with Joe Hills, continued this week, as they connected for nine receptions for 154 yards and four touchdowns. Hills maintained his spot atop the league leaderboard with 305 yards on the season so far. A key factor in Grady and Hills’ performance was the play offensive line, which did not allow a sack for a second straight week.

The Sharks’ defensive collected an impressive four turnovers with three interceptions and a fumble recovery. Greg Reid led the Sharks with his 10 tackles, two key interceptions and forcing one fumble that kept the momentum in the team’s favor. At one point, the Sharks forced a turnover on three straight Philadelphia possessions.

Kicker Marco Capozzoli connected on all extra points and hit a 26-yard field goal at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

This week, the face a Predator team which ranks second in the league in both scoring offense and defense.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

AFL: Jacksonville defense forces four turnovers in 59-41 victory

PHILADELPHIA – Tommy Grady fired seven touchdown passes and the Jacksonville Sharks’ defense forced four turnovers, carrying the team to a 59-41 victory over the Philadelphia Soul on Monday night.

The Sharks never trailed in Monday’s game, and took command of the contest in the second half thanks to a combination of efficient offense and defensive stops. Coming out of the locker room with a one-point lead, Grady piloted the offense down the field, hitting Tiger Jones for a 28-yard touchdown strike that gave Jacksonville (1-1) a 35-27 lead.

Philadelphia (1-1) responded with a quick score, as Dan Raudabaugh connected with Darius Reynolds from 11 yards out to cut the Sharks’ lead to one. But from there, the Sharks embarked on a game-changing 24-point run that started with a 21-yard touchdown pass from Grady to Joe Hills.

On the ensuing possession, Jacksonville defensive back Greg Reid undercut Reynolds’ route, snaring his second interception of the night. Though Reid was ruled to have contacted the wall after it initially appeared that he had returned the pick for a score, the Sharks still took advantage of the turnover. Marco Capozzoli knocked home a 26-yarder on the first play of the fourth quarter, as his first field goal of the season put the Sharks ahead, 45-34.

Even with a two-score lead in hand, Shark defense was far from finished. On Philadelphia’s next drive, Reid and LaRoche Jackson converged on Soul receiver Ryan McDaniel, as Reid ultimately forced a fumble that David Hyland recovered, giving the Sharks’ offense the football back. Grady marched his team down the field again, hitting Hills from four yards out to give Jacksonville a 52-34 edge – their first three-score lead of the season.

Jackson stepped up with another turnover on the Soul’s next possession, as he trapped a deflected pass against the wall to secure an interception. Though an early whistle prevented Jackson from returning his first pick of the year, Grady and Hills made up for it with their fourth touchdown connection of the night, this one from 23 yards out. That score put the Sharks on top by a 59-34 count with just one minute remaining. Reynolds hauled in another touchdown for Philadelphia with 20 seconds left in the contest, but the Sharks burned off the remaining time on the following drive to secure the victory.

Before the Sharks turned the tide in the second half, the teams nearly matched one another throughout the first half. Each team scored on its first three drives before trading turnovers on downs in the second quarter. Jacksonville fullback Derrick Ross powered in from a yard out with 12 seconds left in the half, but the Soul were able to score on the final play before halftime. A missed extra point following that Philadelphia touchdown allowed the Sharks to take a 28-27 lead into the locker room.

Including last year’s American Conference Championship, Jacksonville has now won each of its last four meetings with Philadelphia, and has four wins over the Soul in five matchups since the start of the 2015 season.

In Monday’s victory, Grady completed 21 of his 35 pass attempts for 326 yards and seven touchdowns without an interception. The Jacksonville offensive line did an outstanding job in pass protection, as Grady was not sacked for the second straight week.

At receiver, Hills led the way with nine catches for 154 yards and four scores, extending his personal streak of 54 consecutive regular-season games with at least one touchdown reception. Jones crossed the 100-yard mark for the first time this season, totaling seven catches for 126 yards and two scores, while

Roger Jackson caught his second touchdown in as many weeks. On the ground, Ross carried the ball six times for four yards and a score.

On defense, Reid racked up 10 tackles to go along with his two interceptions and forced fumble, while LaRoche Jackson made four stops in addition to his pick. Hyland totaled five tackles and a fumble recovery.

For Philadelphia, Raudabaugh went 24-of-36 for 306 yards and three touchdowns against three interceptions. Jeramie Richardson racked up 49 yards and a touchdown on just five rushing attempts, while Reynolds totaled 10 receptions for 129 yards and three touchdowns, adding a score on the ground. Joe Goosby led Philadelphia with 7.5 total tackles.

The Sharks will return to Jacksonville to prepare for their home opener, as the team hosts the Orlando Predators on Monday, April 18. Kickoff from Sea Best Field at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena is set for 7:00 p.m.

Monday, April 11, 2016

NASL: New York and Carolina Stay Hot, Miami Draws Big Crowd

NEW YORK - Miami FC splashed onto the South Florida sports scene in grand fashion on Saturday night, drawing 10,156 to FIU Stadium in the club's home debut, a 1­-1 draw against intrastate rival Tampa Bay Rowdies.

For the second week in a row, the Carolina RailHawks came ­from­ behind to claim all three points, defeating the league's other expansion club Rayo OKC, 3­-2, at Miller Stadium in Yukon, Okla. Austin da Luz scored his second goal of the game, and third of the season, in second-half stoppage time to give the RailHawks their second straight victory to open the 2016 NASL Spring Season.

Indy Eleven opened its 2016 home schedule by snatching a late point, thanks to Nemanja Vukovic equalizer in the 89th minute in a 1-­1 draw with Ottawa Fury FC. On Sunday, Minnesota United bounced back from last week's loss at Carolina, traveling to western Canada and leaving with a 2­-0 win against FC Edmonton. The defending league champion New York Cosmos closed out the Week 2 schedule with their second straight win and second straight shutout, 2-­0, in Tony Meola's debut as coach of the Jacksonville Armada FC.

Indy Eleven 1, Ottawa Fury FC 1

Former Israeli youth international Idan Vered scored his first goal in the first start of his NASL career as visiting Fury FC (0W-1D-1L, 1 point) settled for a point against Indy Eleven (0-2-0, 2 points). The Boys in Blue, playing before 9,104 at Carroll Stadium in Indianapolis on Saturday night, battled back to score the equalizer in the 89th minute when Nemanja Vukovic pounced on a loose ball and smacked a left-footed shot past goalkeeper Romuald Peiser. The match was the second in the league's groundbreaking television partnership with beIN SPORTS and was called by the network's lead play-by-play announcer Phil Schoen.

Miami FC 1, Tampa Bay Rowdies 1

Dario Cvitanich made Miami FC history again Saturday night when he scored the expansion club's first home goal before an enthusiastic crowd of 10,156 at FIU Stadium in Miami. Cvitanich, who scored the first goal in club history last week at Fort Lauderdale, brought the crowd to its feet with a goal in the 17th minute. But just as they did late last week against the Strikers, Miami FC yielded a late penalty kick that was converted by Georgi Hristov of Tampa Bay (0W-2D-0L, 2 points). Miami FC (0-2-0, 2 points) completes an opening series against the NASL's other Florida team when it plays at Jacksonville next weekend.

Carolina RailHawks 3, Rayo OKC 2

In the NASL Game of the Week on ONE World Sports, visiting Carolina (2-0-0, 6 points) took a 1-0 lead in the 23rd minute when Nazmi Albadawi calmly settled a pass over the top and crossed to Austin da Luz. Da Luz controlled the cross and tucked the ball past 

Rayo OKC (0-1-1, 1 point) goalkeeper Daniel Fernandes for his second goal of the young Spring Season. Ryan Johnson made club history on Saturday night, when he scored Rayo OKC's first goal off a pass from the Honduras international Marvin Chávez as the home side evened the score in the 33rd minute.

The entrance of Georgios Samaras in the 51st minute paid immediate dividends when the Greek international's close possession in the box led to Michel finding the ball on the left side. The Brazilian veteran headed for the net, scoring to the upper 90 on the near post from an impossible angle. Minutes after entering the match as a substitute, Aly Hassan got Carolina even, running onto a long clearance to score the equalizer in the 74th minute. Deep into injury time, da Luz scored his second of the game as the RailHawks completed an improbable comeback.

Minnesota United 2, FC Edmonton 0

In a renewal of the Flyover Cup, Minnesota United (1W-0D-1L, 3 points) took a 1-0 lead in the 16th minute when Kevin Venegas intercepted an attempted clearance and found Ben Speas with a pass. Speas then slid a shot past FC Edmonton (0-1-1, 1 point) goalkeeper Matt VanOekel at Clarke Field in Edmonton, Alberta, on Sunday afternoon. Speas doubled the lead with a highlight-reel goal in the 55th minute. 

Venegas took a throw-in and bounced the ball to Speas, who had his back to the goal. He flicked it past a defender, turned, and blasted a shot past VanOekel.
The match marked the return to Edmonton of Jamaica international midfielder Lance Laing, who signed with the Loons in the offseason after three years with the Alberta side.

New York Cosmos 2, Jacksonville Armada FC 0

In the 29th minute, goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer's restart was headed in midfield by Juan Arango to a streaking Jairo Arrieta. Arrieta's first-timed volley slipped under goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo of Jacksonville (0-0-1, 0 points) and trickled over the goal line during Sunday evening's game at Shuart Stadium in Hempstead, NY. It was Arrieta's first goal in a Cosmos (2-0-0, 6 points) uniform.

For the second game in a row Adam Moffat came off the bench for the Cosmos and for the second game in a row he scored a goal. A perfect setup by Croatian international Niko Kranjčarleft Moffat alone to the left of Gallardo. He tucked a shot inside the far post in the 55th minute.

The match marked the NASL coaching debut of Tony Meola, who took the helm this past offseason.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

NASL: Arrieta's goal sparks NY Cosmos to a 2-0 win over Jacksonville Armada FC

It was Star Wars Night at Hofstra University’s Shuart Stadium, and the force was definitely with the New York Cosmos.

Although the chances did not come in droves for the Cosmos in the first half, New York was able to capitalize on their best opportunity. Jairo Arrieta scored his first goal as a member of the Cosmos to spark his squad to a 2-0 victory over Jacksonville Armada FC in front of a crowd of 3,685 on Sunday evening.

The defending NASL champions improve to 2-0-0 on the young season and remain atop the standings with six points and a three-goal advantage on the Carolina RailHawks in goal differential. 

In the 29th minute, Jimmy Maurer played a ball deep inside Jacksonville Armada FC’s territory that was proceeded by a Juan Arango header into space for Arrieta. The Costa Rican didn’t squander his chance. The forward blasted a one-timer off the body of Armada goalie Miguel Gallardo that trickled past the goal line for the go-ahead tally.

Arrieta earned Emirates Man of the Match honors.

Early on in the second half, halftime substitute Adam Moffat who replaced an injured Ruben Bover, scored to give the Cosmos some breathing room.

In the 55th minute, newly acquired Niko Kranjčar found a wide-open Moffat at the edge of the penalty area. The Scottish midfielder welcomed the look with a blast to the far side and past Gallardo for a 2-0 advantage. 

Arango and Arrieta have been pivotal signings thus far for New York. 

Arango has two goals and an assist, while Arrieta has notched an assist and today’s goal through the first two games. Arango was named the Emirates Cosmos Man of the Match and NASL Player of the Week last week after notching two goals in their 3-0 victory over Ottawa.

The pair nearly combined for a third Cosmos goal in the 90th minute when Arrieta weaved through defenders and left the ball for Arango. However, the ensuing shot was deflected and was blocked by only the crossbar.

The matchup between Jacksonville and New York had special significance outside of the Star Wars-themed promotional night. It was a coaching matchup between two former teammates, Cosmos coach Giovanni Savarese and first-year Armada coach Tony Meola.

The pair played together on the 1995 Long Island Rough Riders championship team in the United States Interregional Soccer League, then later played together for the New York/New Jersey MetroStars from 1996-1998.

As for Jacksonville, despite 13 new acquisitions including former Ottawa Fury FC captain Richie Ryan and the United Soccer League’s leading goal scorer from last season, Matt Fondy, and a clear advantage in corner kicks, the Armada were unable to get many solid opportunities on Jimmy Maurer.

Maurer picked up his second consecutive clean sheet.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

SUNS: Shoemaker hits grand slam to boost Jacksonville over Barons, 8-3

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville first baseman Brady Shoemaker hit a grand slam for the Suns’ first hit to cap a five-run third inning that provided the difference in an 8-3 win over the Birmingham Barons, giving the Suns back-to-back victories to open the season in front of 6,371 at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville Friday night.

Donning red jerseys to begin a season-long series of Red Shirt Fridays honoring military personnel, the Suns (2-0) started the season with consecutive wins – each by five runs – for the first time in three seasons.

Jacksonville took the lead for good without the aid of a hit. Barons right-hander Carson Fulmer (0-1) set down the first seven Suns in order before issuing three straight one-out walks. Suns left fielder Jeremias Pineda grounded into a force play at home plate for the second out, but Fulmer walked designated hitter Austin Dean on four pitches to force in the first run. With the bases loaded and a 1-0 Suns lead, 

Shoemaker drove a 2-2 offering from Fulmer to the right-field bleachers for his first grand slam since May 30, 2010, when he hit one for Class-A Kannapolis while playing in the White Sox organization. It was the first Suns grand slam since Matt Juengel hit one on June 17, 2015.

Starting the fourth inning with a 5-0 deficit, Birmingham (0-2) put the first four batters on base against Suns left-hander Jarlin Garcia. A walk, two consecutive singles and a ground ball misplayed by shortstop J.T. Riddle gave the Barons a run. With the tying run at the plate and no outs, Garcia escaped the bases-loaded jam with a foul popup, strikeout and groundout.

The Suns extended their lead to 6-1 with Juengel’s RBI single in the bottom of the fourth inning. Juengel and catcher Francisco Arcia each added an RBI single in the eighth inning. Jacksonville was 4-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

Suns right-hander Patrick Johnson (1-0) started the fifth inning for his Southern League debut and went 2 2/3 scoreless innings before a seventh-inning walk and RBI triple by Barons center fielder Adam Engel. Left-hander Jose Jose recorded three outs and allowed one run. Right-hander Tyler Bremer got the final four outs for his first Southern League save.

UP NEXT: The Suns continue their opening series with the Barons at 6:05 p.m. Saturday, when Suns right-hander Austin Brice is scheduled to face Barons left-hander Jordan Guerrero. Gates open at 5 p.m., and the first 1,000 fans receive a free Glow-in-the-Dark T-Shirt from Memorial Hospital, as well as a free magnet schedule presented by Bug Out. The Red Trouser Show will perform acrobatics before and during the game.

Friday, April 8, 2016

SUNS: Esch pitches Jacksonville to 6-1 home-opening win over Barons

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville Suns right-hander Jake Esch struck out seven batters and allowed a single run in six innings, and shortstop J.T. Riddle hit a three-run home run in a four-run third inning to lift the Suns to a 6-1 win over the Birmingham Barons in front of an Opening Night crowd of 8,367 at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville Thursday night.

In front of the largest crowd to see a Suns home game since July 4, 2014 – when 9,246 attended – the pitcher’s mound was the spotlight. Opening Day ceremonies included ceremonial first pitches by Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s son, Boyd Curry, and Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles, before Esch (1-0) took center stage.

In a 1-1, third-inning tie, Esch allowed a leadoff single and hit batter. When Barons shortstop Eddy Alvarez attempted to sacrifice both runners into scoring position, Esch fielded the bunt and threw to third base for a force out, then struck out the next two batters to end the inning and finished his outing by recording the next 12 outs in order.

In the tie-breaking bottom of the third inning, Suns center fielder Yefri Perez led off with a single to left field – his second in as many at-bats. Right fielder Jeremias Pineda followed with a single to center field. A fly ball by left fielder Austin Dean moved Perez to third base, and a pickoff throwing error by Barons right-hander Tyler Danish (0-1) scored Perez with the go-ahead run. After designated hitter Moises Sierra drew a two-out walk, Riddle lifted a three-run blast to the right-center field bleachers to make it 5-1.

With the lead, Suns (1-0) pitchers did not allow another baserunner until the ninth inning. Following Esch, right-hander Tyler Higgins struck out two batters in two perfect innings, and right-hander Victor Araujo recorded the staff’s 19th consecutive out before two walks and a game-ending ground ball by first baseman Jake Peter struck baserunner Trey Michalczewski for the final out.

Perez and Pineda each had two hits in their Suns debuts, and the former scored the first run of the season on Dean’s first-inning RBI single. Birmingham (0-1) answered in the second inning with first baseman Jake Peter’s home run.

The Suns continue their opening homestand at 7:05 p.m. Friday, when Suns left-hander Jarlin Garcia opposes Barons right-hander Carson Fulmer. Gates open at 6 p.m.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

SUNS: Jacksonville Announces 2016 Opening Day Roster

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Suns, the Double-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins, announced the Opening Day roster for the 2016 season on Wednesday morning.

12 of the 25 players on the roster have spent time with Jacksonville before, including three members of a standout starting pitching rotation.

The Suns will feature three Baseball America Top 30 Miami Marlins prospects in the starting rotation. No. 3 prospect and left-handed pitcher Jarlin Garcia returns for his second year in a Suns uniform after going 1-3 with a 4.91 ERA in seven starts with the Suns a season ago. 

No. 13 prospect and right-handed pitcher Jake Esch will be Jacksonville’s Opening Night starter, after he turned in a 2015 that earned him Southern League Midseason All-Star recognition, going 6-5 with a 3.48 ERA in 15 starts for the Suns last year. No. 14 prospect right-hander Austin Brice improved as 2015 went along, going 4-3 with a 4.14 ERA in 12 starts during the second half of the season.

The rotation is rounded out by left-handed pitcher Tim Berry and right-hander Ryan Newell. Berry is new to the Marlins system after spending the last six seasons in the Baltimore Orioles organization. This is the first call-up to the Double-A level in Newell’s career.

The Suns bullpen will feature left-hander Jose Jose, who pitched in two games for the Suns last year. Right-handed relievers include Jacksonville returners Tyler Bremer, 2015 Southern League Midseason All-Star Sean Donatello, Tyler Higgins, and Scott Lyman. Newcomers to the Jacksonville bullpen include right-handers Victor Araujo, Patrick Johnson, and Tyler Kinley.

2015 Southern League Midseason All-Star Sharif Othman returns to the Suns for his third year of service in a Jacksonville uniform. He’ll share catching duties with Francisco Arcia, whom the Marlins signed as a free agent after he spent the past nine years catching in the New York Yankees organization.

The Suns infield features a familiar face at first base in Brady Shoemaker, who is the only position player on the roster that was a member of Jacksonville’s 2014 Southern League championship club. St. Augustine native and Marlins No. 23 prospect Avery Romero, a product of Pedro Menendez High School, will play second base. At shortstop will be Marlins No. 22 prospect J.T. Riddle, who hit .289 with five homers for the Suns in the second half of 2015.

2015 Southern League Midseason All-Star Matt Juengel, who played mostly outfield for Jacksonville last year, will shift to the infield for 2016 and play third base. The Suns also feature newcomers Peter Mooney and James Roberts in the infield, both playing at the Double-A level for the first time in their careers.

The outfield consists of all newcomers to Jacksonville. Marlins No. 7 prospect Austin Dean highlights the outfield along with Yefri Perez, Jeremias Pineda, and former major leaguer Moises Sierra.

Right-handed pitcher Matt Ramsey is the lone player on Jacksonville’s disabled list.

The Suns are led by manager David Berg, who returns for his second season as Jacksonville’s skipper. His coaching staff includes pitching coach John Duffy, hitting coach Rich Arena, and coach John Pachot. Athletic Trainer Cesar Roman returns for his third season with the Suns, with strength and conditioning coach Robert Reichert and video coordinator Keanan Lamb new to Jacksonville.

Jacksonville’s season begins tomorrow night against the Birmingham Barons at 7:05 p.m., starting a five-game series between the clubs at the Baseball Grounds. Right-handed starting pitcher Jake Esch (0-0, 0.00 ERA) takes the ball for the Suns against Barons right-hander Tyler Danish (0-0, 0.00 ERA).

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

SUNS: Different Dining Arrives at the Baseball Grounds

Suns broadcaster Roger Hoover (left), Linda McNabb, 

Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Marco LaNave, 
Media/Public Relations Manager
 and Mary Nixon, Assistant General Manager

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A new era of Jacksonville Suns baseball includes a complete menu makeover at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.

The staff of First Coast Concessions, LLC, completely overhauled the food and beverage operation at the ballpark and built a FUNdamentally Different menu for the Suns season opening Thursday, April 7.

From locally-themed concession stands to all-new group picnic and suite menus, the appetizing choices awaiting guests are unprecedented in the history of the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.

“We sought to totally reimagine the dining experience at the ballpark, and give our guests reasons to come out again and again to taste what is new,” said Suns owner Ken Babby. “With food and beverage offerings that are delicious and affordable, the flavors and value at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville will be FUNdamentally Different!”

Entering the first year under new ownership, the Suns established their new food and beverage department as First Coast Concessions, LLC. The full-time staff includes Mary Nixon as Assistant General Manager of Food and Beverage and Special Events, Ernest Hopkins as Director of Food and Beverage, and Tina Gray-Young and Juanita Millhouse as Food and Beverage Managers.

“Our priority as the new food and beverage team was an entirely new level of quality and variety, with outstanding customer service,” said Suns Assistant General Manager of Food and Beverage and Special Events Mary Nixon. “Our new food and beverage team cannot wait for guests to taste the new menu Thursday!”

Sunday, April 3, 2016

NASL: Carolina tops Minnesota, Tampa Bay and Indy end scoreless

NEW YORK --  A standing-room only crowd jammed Miller Stadium on Saturday night when Rayo OKC played its debut match, a scoreless draw against FC Edmonton, as the North American Soccer League (NASL) kicked off its 2016 Spring Season with a slate of four matches.

Greek international Georgio Samaras nearly worked some late magic after entering in the 79th minute when he forced Eddies goalkeeper Matt VanOekel to make a point-blank save, and then turn away a shot from the rebound by Richard Menjivar. Rayo OKC dominated possession and scoring opportunities for the game's final hour after Edmonton defender Albert Watson was sent off midway through the first half.

The NASL's other expansion club for the Spring Season, Miami FC, converted an early penalty kick, but conceded one in the match's dying minutes that allowed the Fort Lauderdale Strikers to earn a 1-1 draw. The match was the NASL's first on beIN SPORTS, which the league recently partnered with on a national broadcast deal.

Tampa Bay and Indy Eleven battled to a scoreless draw in St. Petersburg, Fla., and the Carolina RailHawks spotted visiting Minnesota an early goal before storming back to score twice in the first half in a 2-1 opening-day win.

The defending champion New York Cosmos host Ottawa Fury FC on Sunday night in a rematch of The Championship Final from last year, which was won by New York, 3-2.

Carolina RailHawks 2, Minnesota United FC 1

The first 15 minutes of Saturday afternoon's curtain-raising match in the 2016 NASL Spring Season was fast, furious, and high-scoring at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C.

Christian Ramirez picked up where he left off last season, when he tallied 12 goals, giving Minnesota (0-0-1, 0 points) the lead only three minutes into Saturday's match. His shot from 25 yards elevated then dipped over goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald.

Carolina (1-0-0, 3 points) drew even in the 12th minute when Aléx Pérez found a streaking Tiyi Shipalane with a pass. Shipalane deftly controlled and chipped goalkeeper Sammy Ndjock with the outside of his right foot. The RailHawks, who are celebrating the club's 10th anniversary, took the lead when Austin da Luz headed in a cross from Kareem Moses in the 26th minute. The home side would then hold on for the season-opening victory.

Fort Lauderdale Strikers 1, Miami FC 1

Dario Cvitanich scored the first goal in the history of Miami FC, a penalty kick only 12 minutes into the game, and it stood up until deep into second-half injury time when the Strikers' Maicon Santos matched him from the penalty spot. Each team walked away with a point in a South Florida Derby match at Lockhart Stadium on Saturday night.

Cvitanich, a striker from Argentina, converted a penalty kick in the game's 12th minute after Ariel Martínez was taken down in the penalty area. Miami (0W-1D-0L, 1 point) played the entire second half with 10 men after Jorge Luis Corrales drew a second yellow card late in the first half.

Miami seemed to be headed for a three-point debut before Fort Lauderdale's (0-1-0, 1) Geison Moura was taken down as he dribbled across the top of the penalty area and Santos converted from the spot in the 93rd minute.

Tampa Bay Rowdies 0, Indy Eleven 0

Tim Hankinson, Indy Eleven's new coach, took his remade team to Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Saturday night and left with a hard-earned point after a scoreless draw against the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

The Rowdies (0-1-0, 1 point) nearly broke through in the 56th minute when the team's new striker Tom Heinemann, signed from Ottawa Fury FC, powered a shot from point-blank range on goal that was kicked clear by Indy (0-1-0, 1 point) goalkeeper Jon Busch.

Indy pressed late for a goal, but Tampa Bay goalkeeper Matt Pickens repelled a flurry of shots to preserve the draw.

Rayo OKC 0, FC Edmonton 0

Rayo OKC drew a sellout crowd of 6,416, including some 200 standing room, to Miller Stadium in Yukon, Okla., in the club's first match in the NASL - a 0-0 draw against FC Edmonton.

Rayo OKC (0W-1D-0L, 1 point) dominated the match and possession from the 30th minute, when Eddies defender Albert Watson was shown a straight red card. Greek international Georgios Samaras entered the match in the 79th minute and nearly scored the first goal in club history. But his break into the penalty area for a clear shot on goal was turned aside by Edmonton (0-1-0, 1) goalkeeper Matt VanOekel, who also saved the quick rebound shot by Rayo OKC's El Salvador international Richard Menjivar.