JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The #RiverCityRumble lived up to its name Wednesday when Jacksonville University and the University of North Florida met on the pitch at Southern Oak Stadium. The two teams combined for 20 fouls, five yellow cards, and a red card that caused the Dolphins to play a man down for over half the game.
"Our boys fought hard and I'm proud of their effort," said Head Coach Mauricio Ruiz. "We were in a tough situation with a man down in the first half, but our attitude didn't change and we still gave ourselves a chance to get back in the game. We have a short week now, so it's all about getting ready for Lipscomb. There should be no hangover from this game. When we wake up tomorrow Lipscomb is on our minds."
The tension could be cut with a knife from almost the opening whistle; UNF's Adrian Nunez fired off a shot less than two minutes in, and JU's Steven Saunders retaliated just a minute later with a beautiful goal on the other end. The freshman caught the ball off a deflection from Ejiroghene Mrabure, and tricked the goalie out of position with a fake. With 86 minutes left in the game, JU led 1-0.
Nunez, the Osprey's leading goal scorer, continued to fire off shots in the opening minutes. The sophomore had one clang off the left post in the seventh minute, and then scored his fifth goal of the year in the 10th minute on a free kick that just made it into the top left corner of the goal. With 80 minutes left the game was tied 1-1.
JU's next best opportunity came in the 12th minute on a beautiful header from Igor Ferreira, the Dolphins' leading goal scorer. His shot forced a diving save from Juanes Fajardo.
Adversity stepped up a notch in the 33rd minute when the Dolphins received a red card and JU's presence on the field was reduced to just 10 men for the rest of the game. It looked like that wouldn't affect the Dolphins much the rest of the half, but with just 26 seconds remaining in the period UNF's Josh Castellanos got a header to go in off a free kick by Mikey Connell, giving UNF a 2-1 lead. The Ospreys would hold that lead for the remainder of the game.
Jacksonville came close to an equalizer several times in the second half'; Ignazio Muccilli had a shot saved in the 58th minute, Sam Gardner was blocked in the 66th minute, Muccilli again had a shot saved in the 77th, and Stephan Spicer had the Dolphins' final offensive attempt in the 87th minute, which was also saved.
The regular season wraps Saturday when the Dolphins travel to Nashville, Tenn., to play against Lipscomb with a decent chance to get into the postseason.
There are several scenarios that could get Jacksonville into the ASUN playoffs; a win at Lipscomb would get the Dolphins in for sure, as would a draw. Even a loss to the Bisons would allow JU to get in, if North Florida defeats USC Upstate. The only thing that would keep Jacksonville out of the ASUN Tournament would be a loss to Lipscomb and a win by Upstate over UNF.