Jacksonville Armada FC are making big moves to improve their squad in 2016, after finishing last in the NASL table in their debut season.
On Tuesday, the Armada announced the signing of Bundesliga champion Pekka Lagerblom. Lagerblom is a versatile midfielder that has earned 12 caps for the Finland national team in his professional career. The Armada’s newest signing won the German double with Werder Bremen in 2004, although he failed to claim a regular starting role with the Bundesliga outfit.
“In Pekka we add more experience to our midfield who has played in one of the biggest leagues in the world and won a title and cup.” said Armada FC head coach and technical director Tony Meola. “After flying Pekka to Jacksonville to speak face-to-face with him, it became clear that he wanted to be in an Armada jersey. We have added another leader to our team.”
After impressing with Finnish side FC Lahti with 13 goals in 55 appearances, Lagerblom spent 2004-2012 with different clubs in Germany. He returned to Lahti for the 2015 season.
Here are some more news and notes from around NASL this Tuesday:
COSMOS ANNOUNCE MORE PRESEASON GAMES
The New York Cosmos officially unveiled two more preseason matches that the club will play in California this February.
Gio Savarese’s men will take on Armenian club Ararat Yerevan FC on Saturday, February 20 at Citrus College Stadium. The Cosmos will follow that up with a game against Fresno Fuego on Wednesday, February 24 at Chukchansi Park.
Yerevan is the most popular club in Armenia, and is coached by Varuzhan Sukiasyan, who also manages the country’s senior national team. The Fresno Fuego plays in the USL Premier Development League, earning four Southwest division titles in 12 seasons.
These two matches will precede the previously announced match against the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday, February 27 at Avaya Stadium.
GOALKEEPER FITZGERALD STAYS WITH RAILHAWKS
After spending 2015 on loan with the Carolina RailHawks, former New York City FC goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald has resigned with the NASL club.
The American goalkeeper, who led the NASL in saves last season, started 21 games for the RailHawks in 2015.
“Akira is a very important player for the RailHawks,” said RailHawks head coach Colin Clarke. “He is a local goalkeeper with a long and important history with the team. Having reliable goalkeepers is key for any soccer team, and we are absolutely delighted to have Akira back for next season.”
Fitzgerald played four seasons with the U-23 RailHawks before signing his first professional contract in 2011. The keeper also plied his trade at Wake Forest University, starting almost 70 matches and ending with the third lowest goals against average in school history (0.83).
ROWDIES RESIGN ANTONIJEVIC
The Tampa Bay Rowdies have had a busy couple of weeks, both adding new parts and resigning members of the talented team that put them so close to the playoffs in 2015.
The latest announcement from the Rowdies is the signing of Stefan Antonijevic to a new contract, which could keep the 26-year-old in central Florida through 2017.
“I’m ecstatic to be back with the Tampa Bay Rowdies,” said Antonijevic. “We came so close to fulfilling our team goals last season, so we’ve got plenty to build off of as we head into 2016. With some of the signings we’ve made already this offseason, it’s an exciting time to be a part of the Tampa Bay Rowdies.”
The towering defender logged almost 1,900 minutes for the Rowdies last season, scoring one goal in 21 appearances.
Antonijevic joins Frankie Sanfilippo, Ben Sweat, Kalif Alhassan, Freddy Adu, and Tom Heinemann as the fifth off-season signing for the Rowdies.
ARMADA TO FACE UNION IN PRESEASON
The Philadelphia Union announced on Tuesday that the MLS club will play its first match of 2016 against the Jacksonville Armada.
The Armada will host the Union on Saturday, February 6 at Community First Park at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville.
This will mark the second straight season the two clubs have faced off in preseason, after the Union traveled to EverBank Field in Jacksonville last year for the same fixture.
The Armada won last year’s match by a scoreline of 3-1 in front of nearly 14,000 fans.