On paper, the Jacksonville Armada and Puerto Rico FC shouldn’t have too much in common.
But look again.
Both clubs’ owners have hit the headlines in the last month.
Both clubs made moves to keep their coaches on the sidelines for a while longer.
And both clubs scored the same number of goals in the teams’ meetings in July - two games, two draws.
That’s the part the Armada needs to change Saturday night, when they travel to last-place Puerto Rico at Juan Ramon Loubriel Stadium.
Twice last month, on July 8 (0-0) and July 12 (1-1), the Armada couldn’t put away scoring chances and paid for it with disappointing results against the North American Soccer League’s cellar-dwellers.
That started an unwelcome trend that’s continued into the fall, starting with Sunday’s 1-1 draw against the San Francisco Deltas.
“Until we can get someone who can take those opportunities in those moments with a bit of quality, like I say every week, the game’s going to be close,” Armada head coach Mark Lowry said after the San Francisco result.
The Armada hopes that one of its summer newcomers - Ciaran Kilduff, Brian Shriver or former Bishop Kenny and Jacksonville University forward Tony Taylor - can be that someone.
Lowry, who signed a contract extension on July 18, said this week that the new trio will give the Armada more options to help Derek Gebhard, a one-man scoring band for most of the last month.
There’s no doubt that Gebhard needs support.
Jack Blake’s goal against the Deltas, the first goal by an Armada player other than Gebhard in the last month, doesn’t change that picture - it only happened because a Gebhard breakaway drew a penalty kick.
For the Armada, in the thick of the NASL playoff race, games like Saturday are the kinds of winning opportunities they can’t afford to let slip away.
Puerto Rico’s lineup has resembled a revolving door. About the only sign of stability was Thursday’s announcement that interim coach Marco Velez will stay on for the rest of the season.
And while new Jacksonville owner Robert Palmer is drawing attention for his ambitious plans to boost the Armada’s profile, Puerto Rico’s owner has made news for different reasons.
That’s because the Caribbean club is owned by New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, whose name appears almost daily in trade rumors linking him with teams across the NBA.
The Armada needs a quick surge to recapture the momentum from its promising NASL spring season. There’s no better chance than this week, and no better way to break the strange recent symmetry between Jacksonville and Puerto Rico.
“Game one of the fall is down,” Lowry said. “Game two has to be better.”