Armada FC Looking for Big Result in Rematch from Last Season

Feb 1, 2016

Armada FC Public Relations | Feb. 1, 2016

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The pitch is set, preseason training has commenced, all hands are on deck and time is closing in.

At 6 p.m. on Saturday evening at Community First Park at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, the Jacksonville Armada FC’s preseason will begin and once again it will be against Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union, opening the flood gates to yet another thrilling season. As the Armada enters its second year, excitement is rampant in the locker room look as Jacksonville looks to duplicate the success from its inaugural match.

“Obviously it was very exciting to first of all be a part of a new organization, get a big win and to be a part of our first game ever in front of such a great crowd,” said goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo. “To have the response from the people in Jacksonville that we had was incredible and it just set the tone. So we’re really looking forward to the same thing this year and hopefully with a better team.”

While there have been some dramatic changes and new faces since the Armada’s electrifying start last year, including the addition of U.S. Soccer Hall of Famer Tony Meola the club’s new head coach and technical director, for the few that started from the very beginning with the team, this preseason opening match has special significance for several Armada veterans.

 “We want to prove to our new coach and the city of Jacksonville that we are strong and here to stay,” Gallardo said.

Gallardo and fellow teammates Matt Bahner, Shawn Nicklaw, Jemal Johnson and Alhassane Keita all have fond memories of being a part of such a powerful experience that was their first game ever for Jacksonville’s new soccer team back in February 2015. They all find it hard to forget the feeling of entering the pitch that day surrounded by a North American Soccer League preseason record crowd.

“I was a part of it and I scored a great goal, so it makes me happy, especially for our fans,” said Keita. “Everyone was happy because it was such a great start. It was encouraging for everyone who played, all the fans, the whole city. It was such a good result for everybody.”

Bahner and Nicklaw, both eager to get back on the playing field, are ready to recreate the magic of their first match with the Armada FC.

 “That was a very memorable day for me,” Bahner reminisced. “I’ll always remember that from last year; just the excitement inside of the locker room, knowing we had an awesome crowd out there. It was just great; great for the city, great for the team, great for everybody involved.”

Nicklaw added: “It was very special. Especially for a first game. We broke a record, so it’s always fun being a part of history and for the first year in an organization, it was very good.”

Not only is the team thrilled for their opening match, but playing for a new coach has them pumped up for the challenge ahead.  With two additional Major League Soccer teams to test the strength of the new squad, many of the players are considering how important a positive result would be for Meola’s first official game in charge of the Armada.

“This year, there’s a whole different vibe around the team,” said Johnson. “People are excited about what’s happening with this coach, and it’s a new opportunity for everyone to impress. The team is pumped, so it’s pretty exciting stuff.”

Following the Union match on Saturday, the Armada will have home preseason friendlies against Orlando City SC on Feb. 13 and the New York Red Bulls on Feb. 27. Tickets start at $10 and are available by calling 1.844.2.ARMADA or visiting