Category: News

2018 Season Preview: Jacksonville Armada

By: Logan Alexander

Hope, “a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen”. In the verb tense, hope is the “wanting of something to happen”. As a supporter of Jacksonville Armada Football Club, all we have left to feel is hope. The feeling is all too familiar. For the second year running, the off-season has painted a picture of nerves and doubtfulness regarding the survival of the club. To be quite honest, the past months have been terrifying, and even though Jacksonville will be competing in the National Premier Soccer League in 2018, there is still a feeling of uncertainty. No one knows exactly what the plan is after the season ends as ideas float in the air, but all that we want is all that we have got. The fans of this club wanted another year playing football, so a spot in the NPSL Sunshine Conference for 2018 is what we have graciously been given.  

The whole winter consisted of playing a waiting game. There were no murmurs, no new information being released, and it had seemed like the club was frozen for two months. Two things we knew for sure is that the players had been training over this time and were preparing for whatever 2018 had to hold. Secondly, Robert Palmer, the owner of Jacksonville Armada FC, had stated that there would be a kick of a ball this year no matter what league the club would agree to join.

Since 2016, Armada have fielded an under-23 squad that has played in the Sunshine Conference of the NPSL, known as Jacksonville Armada U-23’s. For the time being, the senior squad will replace the U-23’s in the conference and league.

Throughout everything that has occurred over the course of the past months, kickoff of the 2018 NPSL season is looming. A revamped roster, different opponents, and a unique setting in a new league, this year is going to be strange but a breath of fresh air.  

The National Premier Soccer League is divided into thirteen divisions, one of which is the Sunshine Conference Division. This year, Jacksonville will face Naples United FC, Boca Raton FC, Miami United FC, Palm Beach United FC, Storm FC, and most notably Miami FC 2. Jacksonville Armada will play each team twice, once at home and once away, aiming to claim a playoff berth in their first year in the division. Before potentially advancing to the national playoffs, the top three teams in the division will advance to divisional playoffs. The first seed will earn an automatic spot in the final, awaiting their opponent from the match between second and third in the league.  

The Returning Players

Jacksonville Armada FC owner Robert Palmer stated publicly on Twitter that he would honor all of the players’ contracts in the off-season. Relegating to a semi-professional league, of course, there would be little interest in playing at a lower level. Palmer acknowledged that if players wanted to stay in Jacksonville, of course, there would be a place for them. There was also an offer to fully release players from their contracts if they had no desire to continue playing for the club. Expectedly, a good number of players on the roster departed Jacksonville including the likes of Jack Blake, Zach Steinberger, and Kevan George, who are all playing football in the United Soccer League (USL) now. Jacksonville Armada FC will look very different leading into the 2018 season but there are a few faces that have remained with the club after all of the action off the pitch. These players are not just names on a team sheet, they are club legends.

Derek Gebhard

The pacey attacker is returning to Jacksonville for another year and returns to the NPSL where he last played for Jacksonville United FC in 2015 before being signed by the Armada that summer. Gebhard saw little action for Jacksonville until the 2017 NASL season where he was the main striker option for head coach Mark Lowry. In thirty-four appearances last year, Gebhard scored four goals, including a game-winner against FC Edmonton last July. He is not a lethal finisher and does not score often, which is the downside to his game, but his ability to create opportunities was a bright side in watching him play last year. Lowry has been utilizing Gebhard on the left side of midfield this pre-season, so there could be a positional change upcoming by the start of the season. Overall, Derek Gebhard is young but is still learning and could prove to be better off out wide then as a starting striker, there is no doubting his quickness though.  

Drew Beckie

Man, myth, and legend. Drew should not be in the picture to start against Miami FC 2 on April 28th, but somehow he is. After contracting a serious virus while training in Sweden this past November, doctors made it aware that the result of the virus would be six to eight months of recovery. Drew returned to the field on April 12th when Jacksonville played an exhibition against Charleston Battery, clocking twenty minutes of match time.  

The ex-Ottawa Fury and Carolina Railhawks defender has consistently started at right back for the Armada over the past year. The upside to his style of play is that he can be commanding on the right side and is not afraid to dart forward. All in all, a very solid player to slot into the back line, but time will tell whenever he is one hundred percent healthy. Lowry has a big decision to make with Drew, for his own sake and the teams’. The NPSL season is a short one, so including a player that is not fully healthy is risky, considering the importance of winning each and every game in the division.  

J.C. Banks

The biggest name on the list. A player who two years ago was in the mix to advance with Minnesota United FC into the MLS but was instead shipped off to Jacksonville in the off-season of 2017. Banks is a versatile attacking midfielder who also experienced featuring as a winger last year for Mark Lowry in a 4-3-3 formation. In 2017, J.C. appeared on the scoresheet five times and assisted once. This year is going to be an opportunity for J.C. to prove how impactful he truly is, potentially returning to the attacking midfield role. With Zach Steinberger departing for Indy Eleven in the USL, Banks has found himself as the front-runner in being the focal point of attack for Jacksonville.  

Both on the field and off the field, J.C. Banks is one who takes risks. He has a knack to pick key passes and is not fearful of having a hit on the ball towards net. Disregarding the pitch, J.C. arrived in Jacksonville during the toughest period of time in club history when Armada was without ownership. After having success in year one, another trial presented itself in the player’s career, either choosing to leave the club to continue playing professionally or take the dive into the NPSL, where he chose the latter. There is plenty of credit to the manager, Mark Lowry, for generating enough pull to retain these players, but in J.C. Banks case, it’s a truly classy move that he has remained in Duval.

Mechack Jérôme

J.C. Banks might have been the biggest name on the list, but the best player that has stayed in Jacksonville is Mechack Jérôme. An absolute menace on the back line, the center back has been an exceptional addition to Jacksonville since he joined the club from Charlotte in the summer of 2015. A strapping and mentally tough defender with national team experience for Haiti and MLS experience for Columbus and Montreal was the perfect fit for a leaky Armada defense when the year one struggles were showing. The Haitian is second all-time in appearances for the club with 63 and is continuing to excel in JAX.  

The center half is coming off of his best year in an Armada shirt, only allowing 40 goals in 34 matches. The numbers are not ideal on the end of goals being allowed, but it is an improvement from the 52 in 2015, and 48 in 2016. Jérôme is of MLS quality and most definitely that of the USL but is enjoying life in Jacksonville and his family reportedly shows love for the city, which is a reason to stay.  

Ciarán Kilduff

One of the newer faces, Kilduff is a strong center forward who has a sure eye for goal. Ciarán joined Jacksonville from Dundalk, who play in the League of Ireland Premier Division, on July 31st of last year. Quickly the forward hit the mark scoring four goals in twelve appearances, which is the best scoring average in Armada history. Considering being in the NPSL, Kilduff should take the league by storm with the quality he possesses in the box and in the air. If he can get to scoring early in the year, he will not stop, bet on it.  

Mark Lowry

Mark Lowry, tactical mastermind. Lowry is a manager that possesses a gravitational pull to both fans and players by the knowledge he has for the game. This off-season, he has attracted the likes of Yuma and Conor Doyle to join the club while retaining the players listed above. If he is asked about a formation used during a match, he will ask which formation is being asked about. With Lowry, it is not as simple as eleven players on the pitch starting in a formation and attempting to score. His philosophy spans to the aspect of eleven players, featuring in one formation to defend, one to attack, one to sit, and one to press. Last year he was quoted saying that in one match he used as many as six to seven different formations. The mental capacity he has towards the game is remarkable.

The hype is serious, though. The style of play is a beautiful execution of how to break an opponent down throughout a match. Constant knocking of passes back and forth and making possession a high priority, but also generating opportunities through having the ball. Every player has a role on the field to help each other and achieve an ultimate goal via an articulate way to play the game. Lowry checks all of the boxes, from genius to passionate to transparent. Players love his training sessions and his eye for the sport. Whatever comes out of this season, will be in due to the work he has done on and off the field this year. The players are the ones that ensure results, but Lowry is the one that has created this all. The real question is.. Do the players in the system possess the capability to take this club the distance in a league they are thought to rampage through?

2018 Goals

Win it all. There is no reason why Jacksonville can’t challenge to win the 2018 NPSL Final. With the amount of firepower on the roster including mostly of players with pro experience, there is no doubt in my mind that Jacksonville can go the distance this year. The only team that boasts an early threat is, you guessed it, Miami FC 2. Two teams in the same boat, playing semi-professional soccer after appearing professionally last year, that include rosters that are stacked with talent and ability that can run the league. The Sunshine Conference Division should be a breeze until the potential date with Miami in the division finals at the end of the season.

Obviously, an Open Cup trophy in the cabinet is a stretch. A run in the competition could happen though. Personally, winning the play-in match against The Villages, defeating SIMA Aguilas in round two, and then moving on to defeat Tampa Bay Rowdies in the third round would be enough to make me content. Entering the tournament without ambition would be just wrong, though. Playing every match with the mindset and confidence to win will take a club far, as FC Cincinnati did in 2017 during their monumental cup run. At a minimum, defeating Tampa Bay is the goal.

For Jacksonville, this is an opportunity. 2018 is an opportunity to boast the first championship in club history, attempting to seek success amidst a dark time in lower division soccer regarding the hiatus by the NASL. It is an opportunity to reignite a flame in the community that has been lacking since the beginning days of the club. Lastly, this year is an opportunity to make a mark and make a name for the club, for Jacksonville Armada Football Club.

Miami FC 2 and Miami United FC Play To Second Draw in as Many Weeks

By: Kartik Krishnaiyer

For the second straight week, the Magic City Derby was intense, and for the second successive week, it ended in a 1-1 draw. This match, however, played at St Thomas University featured beautiful weather as opposed to the rain-plagued match at Ted Hendricks Stadium last week and both teams were ready to tussle.

Early on Miami FC 2 controlled the flow of play,  controlling most of the possession and springing forward with attacks consistently. Miami FC 2 created and chances and were able to stop Miami United from using its pace on the flanks to create quick counter-attacking chances. During the first half of last week’s match, Miami United repeatedly forced Miami FC on the back foot with quick counter-attacking moves.

The Orange and Blue’s forward-thinking earned them a quick goal, going ahead 1-0 in the ninth minute. Jeff Michaud had time and space on the ball inside the opponent’s box and made no mistake with his finish to put Miami FC 2 up one early on.

Miami FC 2’s primary means of attack came from the left wing, where winger Coy Craft, a highly-touted player signed from FC Dallas this offseason and Tyler Polak frequently linked up and played interchangeably along the flank.

Though Miami FC 2 was the more threatening team through the first 30 minutes of the match,  the match was thrown into flux when Tyler Ruthven was handed two successive yellow cards and ejected from the match. Miami FC 2 Head Coach Paul Dalglish at this point opted for Shawn Chin to replace Ruthven at right back hoping Chin’s offensive prowess could help the Orange and Blue continue to push forward.

Playing with 10 men for the remainder of the half, Miami FC 2 felt a bit more offensive pressure from Miami United FC as the first half wore on, and Miami United would end up getting an equalizer seconds before the whistle blew. Miami United piled the pressure on especially the last five minutes of the half and the equalizer seemed inevitable. David Ochoa was particularly influential for Miami United pulling the strings from an attacking midfield position.

Miami FC 2’s utility man Sean McFarlane, who usually plays along the backline particularly at right back, turned into one of the team’s most potent offensive weapons in the second half. He constantly made quick, strong runs through Miami United FC’s defense while operating as a target forward. After the match, Dalglish indicated he felt playing a man down he needed to throw some pace on the pitch at the attacking end to stretch Miami United’s defense.

As the night grew longer, the match became chippier, with seven yellow cards being handed out by the end of the match. Many of these cards were for dissent as the inconsistency of the officials was bothering both teams. Hard fouls going both ways were repeatedly called but did not result in bookings, while arguments often did.

Miami United seemed destined to snatch a second goal in the early minutes of the second half but as the match wore on Miami FC 2 was finding space and exploiting United on the counter. Don Smart’s pace, as well as that of McFarlane, created defensive headaches for United. Dalglish tactical change did work and Miami FC 2 looked more comfortable going forward with McFarlane on the pitch.

In the second half stoppage time, tensions boiled over as a scuffle ensued after Miami FC 2’s Dylan Mares was fouled hard. Three red cards were given out, two to Miami United FC and one to Mares. The ensuring Miami FC 2 free kick didn’t trouble the Miami United keeper.

The match finished 1-1 for the second-consecutive week.


Club1st Half2nd HalfGoalsOutcome
Miami FC 2101Draw
Miami United FC101Draw

Miami FC 2 and Miami United Open up NPSL play with 1-1 draw

via press release:

The Miami FC 2 opened up its 2018 NPSL season with an intra-city showdown against Miami United FC in the Magic City Clásico. The match ended 1-1, as both teams played a clean, solid match on both sides of the ball.

An unexpected form of offense came by way of a threatening long throw-in by Tyler Ruthven in the 17th minute that rattled around the box and was eventually cleared out for a corner kick.

In the 36th minute, Aly Hassan won a free kick on the left side in the final third of the field. Mares took the free kick and swung it into the box. A scramble for the ball ensued, but Miami United was able to clear it out of danger.

Dylan Mares and Don Smart frequently linked up in Miami United FC’s territory, threatening to get into the box on a regular basis.

Miami FC 2 consistently ripped open Miami United’s defense with long through balls, either through the middle or through the wings, but marginal offside calls kept the Orange and Blue from finding the opening goal.

The match went into halftime tied at 0-0, with both teams getting their fair share of offensive opportunities.

Miami United FC fired the opening salvo early in the second half, taking a 1-0 lead on a Victor Pelae goal. Pelae tapped in a rebound after Daniel Vega made an outstanding, acrobatic save to keep the ball out of the net.

Substitute Stefano Fanfoni nearly tied the match in the 72nd minute, getting through on goal after a Miami FC offensive attack pulled the goalkeeper and defenders out of position. Fanfoni gathered the ball and shot at goal, but his shot sailed high over the crossbar.

The Orange and Blue kept pushing to find an equalizer, and they came close in the 83rd minute, when Mason Trafford got forward from his center back position and ripped a long distance shot that drifted wide of the goal.

With just seconds left in the match, two substitutes provided the deadly impact that tied the match. Sean McFarlane unleashed a precise forward pass into the box from around the halfway line. The pass found Jaime Chávez, who met the ball at its highest point and guided his header into the bottom right corner of the net.

The first-ever Magic City Clasico ended in 1-1 draw. A rematch will be played next weekend, when Miami FC 2 hosts Miami United FC at Bobcat Field at St. Thomas University. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 21.

Armada Defeats UNF 3-0, Remain Perfect in Preseason

via press release:

The Jacksonville Armada FC was victorious for the first time in franchise history over the University of North Florida men’s soccer team Wednesday afternoon. The 3-0 shutout at Hodges Stadium was also the second win of the preseason for the Armada FC.

The Ospreys came out strong with an early look at the goal, but trialist Shane McInerney made a critical save to head out the ball.

The momentum seemed to flip instantly to the Armada FC for the next twenty minutes as the team fought to gain possession and pressured the UNF defense.

J.C. Banks received the first opportunity eleven minutes into the match in front of the net, but his shot went up and over. Two minutes later Conor Doyle also gained sight of the goal, but the UNF goalkeeper secured his attempt.

Ciarán Kilduff then found a chance minutes later after a cross into the box, but the UNF goalkeeper also saved his header.

“We didn’t have the penetration – which is what we’ve been working on the last couple of days,” said head coach Mark Lowry. “The chances, when we were getting them, we weren’t really connecting properly.”

Both sides earned a corner, but neither was able to convert the chances into a goal and the teams went into halftime scoreless.

“The first half [UNF] defended super well,” said Lowry. “They put their people around the ball and didn’t let us get through them. We played some great football. For the first half, for us, I enjoyed it more even though we didn’t score. From a soccer standpoin, we moved the ball well and connected a lot of passes.”

Derek Gebhard earned an early free kick just outside the box and Banks stepped up to deliver it. Kilduff connected with it, but the ball went over the net.

The first goal of the afternoon came after two trialists were subbed in. Brian Bement set up Comillo Portilla in front of the net, and Portilla tucked away the ball around the UNF goalkeeper.

About nine minutes later, Portilla delivered again when Kilduff set him up for a perfect rocket into the net to bring the score to 2-0.

The Armada FC road the momentum to put away one more goal before the final whistle blew. Banks converted a free kick and earned his second goal of the preseason to bring the final score to 3-0.

“Credit to [UNF], they defended really well. We’re happy we were able to put a couple goals away in the second half,” said Lowry

90 Minutes Strong Returns After Two-Year Hiatus

After a hiatus of nearly two years, 90 Minutes Strong returns with a new vision in mind.

Whereas in the past the website focused on all aspects of US Soccer, making the range of articles on the website very broad, starting today 90 Minutes Strong will exclusively cover the National Premier Soccer League’s Sunshine Conference.

With the addition of Miami FC 2, and Jacksonville Armada to the conference that already has great teams such as Two-Time Sunshine Conference Champions, Miami United FC, Boca Raton FC, Naples FC, Storm FC, and Palm Beach United, the conference is set to have one of the most memorable seasons to date and 90 Minutes Strong will have you covered in all aspects of the conference.

We will give you insights into the teams, recaps, and player profiles you won’t be able to find anywhere else, as well as have all Sunshine Conference press releases available on our site, easy to find for anyone interest.

The redesigned website is also perfect for the casual fan to check on game dates, scores, and players (once rosters are finalized).

90 Minutes Strong will now also bring you the Sunshine Conference Best XI of the Month at the end of each month, as well as Player of the Year at the conclusion of the season.

We are very excited to be back with a new vision and goal for our fans. For those who have been patiently waiting for our return, hello. For those who are new to the site, welcome.

Boca Raton FC Inks Brazilian International Rafinha for NPSL Season

via press release

Boca Raton, FL — As Boca Raton FC continues to prepare for the 2018 NPSL season, the club is excited to announce the signing of Rafinha for the 2018 National Premier Soccer League season.

Rafinha comes to Boca Raton FC after playing in some of Brazil’s biggest clubs like Corinthians and Cruzeiro.

The 29-year-old midfielder has been training with the club and has impressed coach Rooney with his speed, awareness, and quality.

“Rafinha is a proven professional,” says head coach Jim Rooney. “He is a talented midfielder and is a great addition to our club as we look to compete at the highest level this NPSL season.”

“I’m very excited about this opportunity to play with Boca Raton FC and I will work hard to honor this jersey,” said Rafinha. “ I would like to thank God for bringing me here, and I strongly believe that 2018 will be a great year not only for me but for the club as well.”

Boca Raton FC will kick off its 2018 NPSL season versus Miami United at home at Atlantic High School.

“I plan on giving my all for this club and make the fans proud when it’s all said and done,” added the 29-year-old Brazilian. “I would like to thank the team president and all of the directors for their trust in me, now it’s time to prove to them I was worth the investment.”

Miami United FC acquires 24-year-old, Tomas Granitto

via press release

Miami United FC acquired Tomas Granitto to enforce the club during the upcoming NPSL Season.

Team‘s CEO & Founder Roberto Sacca made it official this past Thursday evening saying: “We are very happy to have Tomas in our club. He is a fabulous player. He‘s definitely one of the best home-grown talents in South Florida. We think he can quickly become a key player inside Coach Reinoso‘s squad. Despite his young age, he will give us experience, and a lot of quality in the midfield. This year will be the most beautiful and exciting NPSL Season yet.“

As Roberto Sacca mentioned, Tomas definitely possesses experience beyond his year. Excelling at the Collegiate level and becoming a professional at a young age, playing in El Salvador‘s Liga Mayor de Futbol, NASL & USL has given him plenty of matches under his belt. He also played for El Salvador‘s U-20 National Team maintaining himself as a viable young option for El Salvador National Team.

Raised in South Florida, Granitto makes his return to the place which he called home growing up with great expectations by saying: “I am proud to be part of Miami United. I‘m happy to represent this club as a local player.”

Tomas Granitto will be available during the remainder of the preseason and will be available immediately shall Coach Gerardo Reinoso requires him in his plans.

Miami FC 2 Adds 10 to Inaugural Roster

via press release

MIAMI – The Miami FC 2 has fortified its NPSL roster with the addition of 10 new players. Here’s a rundown of all 10.  

Don Smart makes the jump to Miami from Indy Eleven, where he spent the past four seasons as a top player for the club. Smart’s pace and ability to pick out a teammate with any cross or pass make him a dangerous threat from the wing. He played against The Miami FC four times, accumulating a goal and two assists in those matches.

Dustin Corea transitions to Miami from FC Edmonton, where he spent the past three NASL seasons. Corea was Edmonton’s primary means of offense, operating as the main attacking player, scoring seven goals and providing 11 assists in 62 matches for the team. Corea can beat you in a variety of ways and is particularly calm, cool and collected from the penalty spot.

Aly Hassan has played most of his career in the USL and NASL. The 6-2 forward played from 2012 to 2015 with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers before short stints with the Ottawa Fury and North Carolina FC. Hassan played with the USL’s San Antonio FC in 2017, making eight league appearances and scoring once and converting in a penalty shootout in two U.S. Open Cup matches.

Tyler Polak moves to Miami after spending the last two seasons with FC Cincinnati. He made 54 appearances for Cincinnati during his time there and was a frequent contributor on their back line. Polak is also a former U.S. Soccer U-17 and U-20 international.

Manny Gonzalez has been playing in Florida for his entire professional career, spending four seasons with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers and playing for the South Florida Surf in 2017. The Colombian midfielder started in the Surf’s 3-2 U.S. Open Cup loss against The Miami FC last May.

Shawn Chin returns to South Florida after spending two years with San Antonio FC and one season with the Colorado Springs Switchbacks. A versatile player who can range from forward to midfield to right back, Chin played with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers from 2014 to 2015 and scored made over 50 appearances. He finished third in assists handed out during the 2014 NASL season. Chin is also a former U.S. Soccer U-20 international.

Stefano Fanfoni is an Italian midfielder who had an accomplished career at Nova Southeastern University. Fanfoni earned All-Sunshine State Conference Second Team honors as a sophomore. He scored eight goals and notched 13 assists throughout his collegiate career.

Coy Craft heads to Miami after being a part of FC Dallas throughout his youth career and part of his senior career. Craft made 10 total appearances for FC Dallas, scoring one U.S. Open Cup goal. Craft spent the 2016 season with the Oklahoma City Energy on loan, making 16 appearances and tallying three goals. The 20-year-old attacker was also part of the U.S. Soccer U-20 squad that won the 2017 CONCACAF U-20 Championship.

Sean McFarlane will follow up a highly successful 2017 season with the Colorado Springs Switchbacks with a transfer to Miami. A natural defender, McFarlane scored two goals in 29 appearances for the Switchbacks in his one and only season with the team. Born in Jamaica, McFarlane is a homegrown soccer product, having attended and played for Florida International University from 2013 to 2014.

Tomas Greco joins Miami after graduating from St. Thomas University. Greco played midfield for the Bobcats and enjoyed a fantastic final season with the team in 2017. He racked up six goals and eight assists in 16 matches and helped the Bobcats reach the second round of the 2017 NAIA National Championship.

The Miami FC will also feature 12 players from last years Miami FC roster for a total of 22 players set to compete in the 2018 Sunshine Conferece.

Jacksonville Adds Scrimmage With UNF to Preseason Schedule

via press release

The Jacksonville Armada FC will return to its home venue of Hodges Stadium for a preseason match with the University of North Florida’s men’s soccer team on Wednesday, March 14.

“We are looking forward to playing at Hodges Stadium and always enjoy our preseason matchup against UNF. They always provide a good test for us,” said head coach Mark Lowry.

The match will be the fourth preseason exhibition of 2018 and is critical as the team continues to adjust with many offseason roster changes. The team is coming off a 2-0 win against Flagler College on Feb. 26. A goal each by newcomer Conor Doyle and returning forward Ciarán Kilduff propelled the Armada FC to the victory.

“Our body of work over the past month has been fantastic,” said Lowry. “We are now in the process of adding the final details at either end of the field and this game offers us a chance to improve on that.”

This will be the third time the Armada FC has met the UNF Ospreys. Jacksonville played to a 0-0 draw with UNF in the 2016 and 2017 preseason at Hodges Stadium.

Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. and the scrimmage will be free and open to the public, but a parking fee of $2 is required in Lot 18 next to Hodges Stadium. More information about parking on the UNF campus can be found HERE.