The Armada’s second NASL season arrived with much fanfare. Former US Men’s National Team keeper Tony Meola came in as head coach, and the roster featured many an impressive list of new and impressive talent, including Richie Ryan, Matt Fondy, Pekka Lagerblom, and Charles Eloundou. Seemingly, the Armada were set up for success following a dismal 2015.
This would not the case, as the Armada recorded an abysmal 1-4-5 record in the Spring Season. Tony Meola was canned after only nine months on the job, and captain Ritchie Ryan was transferred to Miami FC. Fellow promising newcomers Matt Fondy and Junior Sandoval did not pan out and were shipped off to new homes in the NASL. All in all, interim Head Coach Mark Lowry inherited a shipwreck coming in to the second half of the Armada’s sophomore season.
Lowry certainly made an imprint on the Armada both on the roster sheet and in the standings. Following his own group of additions in the summer (Karl Ouimette, Jason Plumhoff, and Nicklas Maripuu to name a few), Lowry led the Armada to a 5-8-9 record in the Fall, earning himself the permanent Head Coach job.
Additions and Subtractions
- GK Miguel Gallardo (Orlando City broadcaster)
- GK Sean Lewis
- D Tyler Ruthven (Miami FC)
- D Beto Navarro (Orange County SC)
- D Bryan Burke (San Francisco Deltas)
- D Matt Bahner (FC Cincinatti)
- D Patrick Otte
- D Karl Outmitte (End of loan from New York Red Bulls)
- M Anthony Wallace
- M Pekka Lagerblom (Atvidabergs FF)
- M Lucas Scaglia
- M Nicolás Perea
- M Jason Plumhoff
- M Garry Lewis
- F Alex Dixon (OKC Energy)
- F Alexander Andersson (Degerfors)
- F Alhassane Keita
- F Chaim Roserie (Eastern Florida State College)
In the offseason, the Armada announced the return of Kyle Nasta, Mechack Jérôme, Danny Barrow, Charles Eloundou, Keven George, Jemal Johnson, Nicklas Maripuu, Zach Steinberger (following his release from parent club Houston Dynamo), and Derek Gebhard.
- GK Caleb Patterson-Sewell (S. C. Farense)
- D Devon Fisher (Seattle Sounders II)
- D Drew Beckie (Carolina RailHawks)
- D Peabo Doue (Wilmington Hammerheads)
- D Michael O’Sullivan (Palm Beach Atlantic University)
- D Aaron Pitchkolan (Minnesota United)
- D Kalen Ryden (OKC Energy)
- M JC Banks (Minnesota United)
- M Jack Blake (Minnesota United)
- M Bryam Rebellón (LA Galaxy II)
- F Jonathan Glenn (Breidablik Kópavogur)
Preseason Thus Far
Following a 3-2 match in an inter-squad scrimmage in March, the Armada have gone 2-4-0 this preseason, with their first victory coming in a 5-0 thumping of Flagler College on February 25th. The “Boys in Blue” played to consecutive 1-1 draws against Jacksonville University and Montverde Academy in early March, and followed up with a scoreless draw against the University of North Florida at new home Hodges Stadium. In their first match against a professional team in 2017, the Armada defeated the Tampa Bay Rowdies 1-0 on March 11th. They then finished up their preseason with a back and forth 2-2 draw against Orlando City B on March 18th.
Off the Pitch
While this past offseason seemed similar to the entire NASL, the Armada sure faced an extraordinary amount of issues ahead of 2017. After an offseason full of rumors of an imminent move to USL and termination of all player contracts, the club still remains, but under league ownership; former CEO and owner Mark Frisch announced his departure from the Armada in both capacities. Furthermore, the club now has a new home, moving from the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville to Hodges Stadium on the campus of UNF. Amid a litany of promising new faces on the pitch, the Armada will look for a rebound year off the field and in the stands to possibly yield a new local owner.
Predicted Starting XI
With a relatively young and NASL-inexperienced wave of signings this offseason, expect head coach Lowry to go with experience on opening day in his oft-preferred 4-2-3-1 formation. Players like Beckie, Pitchkolan, Blake, and Banks should all fit in with ease due to their experience in the league. Midfielders Maripuu and Steinberger were relied upon heavily by Lowry to form the Armada’s attack near the end of last season, so one can figure they will retain much of the same role in 2017. Finally, it’s difficult to predict where Eloundou will spend most of his time, as he was employed as a second striker, primary striker, left and right-winger in a stellar 2016 for the Cameroonian international. Expect him, Maripuu, and Steinberger to interchange position over the 2017 NASL campaign much like they did in the last one.
It will be interesting to see how Mark Lowry fairs in his first full season at the helm, but with many key pieces of the Armada’s 2016 season (all-time leading scorer Alhassane Keita, defenders Bryan Burke and Karl Ouimette) missing, the 2017 campaign may be a steep task. The NASL is an extremely packed league this season, and the Armada, on paper, do not have much consistent talent outside of Eloundou to rise above the competition. If players like Banks, Steinberger, and Blake have fantastic seasons, the Armada could come close to a playoff spot. However, expect Jacksonville to be near the bottom of the table come seasons end.
Final Grade: C+.