NASL Notes: Florida Clubs Stay Active, Indy Adds International Experience, more

IMAGE, STRIKERS.COM

by JAKE NUTTING

A little over a month into the NASL offseason and the league’s Floridian clubs have consistently been the most active. Three of the four clubs made additional roster moves the holiday week, with some of those signings being players from in-state rivals.

Jacksonville Armada FC

Armada FC Head Coach Tony Meola bolstered his back line even more with the addition of former New York Red Bulls and Atlanta Silverbacks defender Tyler Ruthven. The 27-year-old center back had one-season stints with both of those clubs, but was most recently a major contributor over the past two seasons for Arizona United FC in the USL.

Miami FC

One player that was a part of Jacksonville’s roster purge over the last month has landed with the newest NASL club in the Sunshine state. Spanish keeper David Sierra became the first signing at the position for expansion side Miami FC after playing his first season in the U.S. with Armada FC. Sierra was let go by Jacksonville at the end of the year with only eight appearances under his belt. His 2015 season, much like Armada FC, was a mixed bag but he did have one standout performance in the club’s 1-0 result over the New York Cosmos in July to hand the ¬†eventual Soccer Bowl winners their first loss of the year.

Tampa Bay Rowdies

The Tampa Bay Rowdies are giving their supporters flashbacks to last year’s offseason. In addition to the reacquisition of former captain Frankie Sanfilippo from the Fort Lauderdale Strikers earlier this week, the Rowdies also announced the signing of Fort Lauderdale’s primary left winger Walter Ramirez. The moves are reminiscent of last year when the Rowdies signed a handful of Fort Lauderdale’s top performers. At 32, though, Ramirez is an experienced NASL veteran who was an integral part of the San Antonio Scorpions regular season title in 2012. The winger made the NASL Best XI during that year before moving on to Indy Eleven in 2014. His time in the Circle City was cut short when he was released halfway through his first year, but he quickly landed on his feet in Fort Lauderdale. Ramirez appeared in 27 of 31 matches in 2015 and recorded a career-best five goals.

The Rowdies also made long term moves to solidify their back line by signing center back Stefan Antonijevic and left back Zac Portillos to new multi-year contracts. Antonijevic was among the best defenders in the league during Spring Season before nagging injuries marred him in the Fall Season. Portillos had an even rougher go after a season-ending injury in the second week of the year, but he showed enough in his short time to impress both the Rowdies and their fans.

Indy Eleven

Indy Eleven inked their first international player of the offseason with the addition of Eamond Zayed. The 32-year-old is a native of Ireland but has represented Libya on the international stage a handful of times. His most productive stretch as a player came with his first club Bray Wanderers, where he tallied 54 goals in over 100 appearances. Since leaving the Wanderers in 2006, Zayed has played for over half a dozen clubs in Ireland, Iran and Malaysia.

Indy went the domestic route for their other signing of the week. 26-year-old defender Neil Shaffer has joined the club after spending the last two seasons in the USL with the Harrisburg City Islanders. Shaffer helped lead the Islanders to a surprise appearance in the 2014 USL Championship game and served as the club’s captain during the 2015 season.

Carolina RailHawks

The RailHawks revealed that longtime keeper Akira Fitzgerald will be returning to the club after signing a new contract. Fitzgerald left the RailHawks in December of last year to join MLS side New York City FC for its inaugural season, but the 27-year-old never managed to crack the starting lineup. With the talented keeper languishing on the bench the RailHawks worked out a loan to bring him back into the fold during the Spring Season. Fitzgerald went on to start 21 matches for the RailHawks after his return and led the league in saves made.

  • Wes

    NASL will have some great rivalries in Florida.
    Very smart.

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  • ted dev

    who cares, nasl can’t even beat USL teams (losing 7 in a row this year), where is the coverage on the USl teams which seem better in comparison?

    • La liga mexicana fanatico

      I can’t believe any of you gringos care aboutique MLS. None of your crappie teams ever do well in international competitions and the entire Ga lazy team can’t wait to go to teams in Mexico. I can’t believe anyone would pay money to watch MLS. Better to stay home and watch Mexican soccer on Telemundo.

      • OpenCupFan

        Hahah, LigaMX bot meets mls snob. Love it!
        .
        Happy New Year soccer America!

    • The Don

      Bless you, my son. You are a good stooge. Have some more Kool aid.