Jun 11, 2014

Former international midfielder, recruiter and coach to build Jacksonville team

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- June 11, 2014 - The Armada FC, Jacksonville’s professional soccer team and the 12th club in the North American Soccer League, today announced Argentinian José Luis Villarreal will become the club’s first head coach. Villarreal will be charged with building the team’s roster and technical staff before coaching the Armada FC in its inaugural season in 2015.

"I am grateful to have this opportunity with the Armada FC. This is a chance to build a new club and build the sport of soccer in Jacksonville and around the region. My experiences as a player with leading teams in South America and Europe, as a manager with the top club in Chile and as an international recruiter have prepared me well for this role. I look forward to assembling a great team that our fans can call their own," said Villarreal.

Villarreal, a former midfielder, brings to Jacksonville nearly 30 years of experience playing and coaching at the professional level for premier and world-renowned leagues across South America and Europe including Boca Juniors (Argentina), River Plate (Argentina), C.F. Pachuca (Mexico), Atlético Madrid (Spain) and Montpellier Hérault SC (France). Most recently, Villarreal served as deputy manager for Chilean club Colo-Colo, which plays in the Primera División. Colo-Colo has the most wins in Chilean first league history, with 30 titles, and has been in the top league since it was founded in 1925. In 2014, the club was crowned the champions of the Primera División fall season.  

With the hiring of Villarreal, Armada FC general manager Dario Sala has delivered on his promise of hiring a head coach that will bring not only a level of expertise and style that is new to Jacksonville, but also strong connections to the international soccer community.

"Jose’s style of coaching and play is not seen in the U.S. right now," said Sala. "Armada FC will be the only team in the NASL to play the game under Jose’s aggressive, attack-style approach, guaranteeing exciting, fast-paced movement come game day. Additionally, as a former recruiter, Jose’s eye for talent and connections to teams across the globe will serve Armada FC well by attracting top players to this club."

Villarreal began his career at age 16 at the local club San Lorenzo de Las Flores in his hometown of Córdoba, Córdoba Province, Argentina. At age 20, Villarreal made the move to Club Atlético Belgrano in the Argentine second division. After playing two seasons with Club Atlético Belgrano, Villarreal signed with famed Argentine side Boca Juniors, where he spent the next five years of his career. During Villarreal’s time with Boca Juniors, the team won the 1992 Argentine Primera División championship. Also in 1992, Villarreal aided Argentina in raising the Kind Fahd Cup, which is now known as the FIFA Confederations Cup.

Following a brief period at Atlético Madrid, Villarreal returned to Argentina and joined River Plate from 1993-1995, where he was part of the squad that made history by winning the 1994 Argentine Primera División championship with zero losses.  

In 1995, Villarreal joined French club Montpellier Hérault SC where he netted three goals in 29 appearances. Villarreal left Montpellier for C.F. Pachuca in Mexico for the 1997 season. After a series of re-occurring injuries, Villareal returned to Argentina in 1998, where he played for an array of clubs including Estudiantes de La Plata and All Boys. In 2002 , he returned to Club Atlético Belgrano, where he played until retiring in 2004.

From 2005 to 2007, Villareal served as president of the Academy Rumbo has Excelencia y Deportiva Humana, where he was part of a team that recruited top South American talent including, most notably, Lionel Messi. The comprehensive educational academy placed an emphasis on advanced training programs that enabled the best South American footballers the opportunity to play in the best clubs in Europe.

Armada FC President Steve Livingstone said that the club received resumes from qualified candidates across the world vying for the position, but that Villarreal’s experience and vision were the perfect fit.

"I was impressed by the amount of interest in this our coaching position; however, it is Jose’s approach to the game, worldwide experience and connections and passion for the sport that made it clear that he belongs in Jacksonville with the Armada FC," said Livingstone. "I am looking forward to seeing Dario and Jose bring their vision to life on the field."

Armada FC Owner Mark Frisch said that, in addition to possessing the skills necessary for the position, Villarreal also demonstrated the leadership quality needed to build a team from the ground up.

"Leading a completely new team such as the Armada FC requires being able to quickly develop chemistry among players and coaches, to demonstrate your vision and to build trust with your team," said Frisch. "Jose is the ideal person to do that for the Armada FC."

Villarreal has recently relocated to Jacksonville, Fla., and will be joined by his wife and two children.


About the NASL

Jacksonville Armada FC is Jacksonville’s newest professional sports team and a member of the North American Soccer League. The NASL member teams are: Atlanta Silverbacks, Carolina RailHawks, FC Edmonton, Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Indy Eleven, Minnesota United FC, New York Cosmos, Ottawa Fury FC, San Antonio Scorpions FC and Tampa Bay Rowdies. Jacksonville Armada FC, Virginia Cavalry FC and Oklahoma City will commence play in 2015.  

In summer 2014, Armada FC and the Real Madrid Foundation will bring competitive player development clinics to Northeast Florida in a series of eight camps that are open to boys and girls ages 4 - 17. Camps will be taught by Real Madrid Foundation coaches and former players from Real Madrid, one of the world’s premier and legendary professional soccer clubs. Learn more and register here .

For more information about the NASL, visit . Follow the NASL on Twitter @NASLOfficial and Facebook at . Fans can watch every game live at .