JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After a long preseason and having to sit out the North American Soccer League Opening Kick weekend, the Jacksonville Armada and new head coach Tony Meola will finally make their debut this Sunday against the New York Cosmos in Long Island.
It will be a homecoming of sorts for Meola, who hails from Kearny, N.J., and played goalkeeper for the Red Bulls from 1996-98 (then known as the New York/New Jersey MetroStars) and again from 2005-06. He also played for the Long Island Rough Riders of the old USISL in 1995 along with Armada assistant coach Jim Rooney and Cosmos head coach Giovanni Savarese.
The Armada is no stranger to James M. Shuart Stadium, having played there twice in 2015 and faring with a draw (3-3 on June 13) and loss (1-0 on June 13). Jacksonville came out on top 1-0 on July 18 at Community First Park.
Despite a different looking squad than last year's NASL Championship-winning outfit, particularly with the loss of Spanish legend Raúl, the Cosmos have restocked nicely. New York came out on top 3-0 over Ottawa Fury FC in a rematch of last year's Championship Final and got two goals from NASL Player of the Week Juan Arango.
The Armada has been looking forward to this date since commencing preseason training in January and faced stiff competition to prepare. Jacksonville faced three MLS opponents – Philadephia Union, Orlando City SC and New York Red Bulls – and went 2-1 while finishing 4-2-3 overall in the preseason.