JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Armada head coach Mark Lowry knows that this year will be a different kind of experience, not just because the team is playing this spring in a new league, the National Premier Soccer League.
"To be honest, it's 50-50 in terms of 'let's get better every day' but also, we want to win," Lowry said. "We want to win the league. We want to destroy everybody in our path. We want to win and we want to win convincingly."
There are some familiar names still on the roster. Forwards Ciaran Kilduff and Derek Gebhard, midfielder J.C. Banks, and defenders Mechack Jerome and Drew Beckie returned from last year's squad that narrowly missed the playoffs in the North American Soccer League. Also back is the club's all-time leading goal scorer, Keita, who played for the Armada in 2015 and 2016.
"I'm excited to be back and share my experience, and to score some goals, too," Keita said.
The NASL canceled the 2018 season after it lost a lawsuit against U.S. Soccer to retain its Division 2 status. That's when the Armada decided to play a season in the NPSL and work on future plans during 2018.
The future was also on the mind of the club's president, Nathan Walter, who said that plans for a stadium continue to develop, with an eye toward playing in a new facility as soon as 2021.
"Right now, it's in the planning stages. There are lots of conversations going on," Walter said. "The city has been fantastic. The location is still undecided. There are three or four locations we're excited about. Everything is laying the foundation. There's an interim period that we have to look at as well. It takes anywhere from 18-24 months to build a stadium. We think we have a viable option that the city has been very helpful with. We should be announcing that in the coming weeks."
Jacksonville travels to face the Charleston Battery of the United Soccer League Thursday in an exhibition match.
The Armada open the NPSL season at Miami on April 28. It will play five straight road matches before the home opener on June 2 against Storm FC.