NASL Notes: Ottawa Retains De Guzman, Rowdies Swoop in to Claim Alhassan, more

IMAGE, NY COSMOS

by JAKE NUTTING

After a tumultuous start to the week with the departures of several pivotal players, Ottawa made two shrewd moves to quell the simmering discontent.

The club secured the return of Canadian national team captain Julian de Guzman and youngster Mauro Estaquio for the 2016 season. De Guzman only featured in half of Ottawa’s matches in 2015 due to frequent national team call ups, but he was performed admirably in nearly all of the matches he played in. If he can remain with the club on a more consistent basis, both he and the club would likely benefit greatly. Eustaquio is also a Canadian international, though he’s only ever been called up to the youth teams. The 22-year-old grew seemed to grow into his own during the 2015 season as a supporting member of Ottawa’s superb midfield.

Tampa Bay Rowdies find their wingman

The Tampa Bay Rowdies continued their effort to overhaul their attack with the acquisition of Minnesota United FC winger Kalif Alhassan. The attacker produced some impressive numbers (4 goals, 6 assists) in his year with the Loons, but he found himself as the out man out after Minnesota added potent winger Lance Laing. Alhassan can play several positions in the midfield, though the Rowdies are likely thinking to keep him on the wings, an area where they struggled to find consistent production this past season.

Rebuilding the attack also requires some trimming, and the Rowdies did so by parting ways with forwards Maicon Santos, Robert Hernandez and Brian Shriver. Honduran international Darwin Espinal is the only forward that will return for the Rowdies in the new year.

Also worth mention: Ryan Richter will not be joining the club. While sources confirmed his arrival last week, further investigation into the topic revealed the deal had not gone through. Both parties were in deep conversations, but Richter will move on to another side, likely outside of NASL.

Jacksonville Armada FC Pull from USL

Jacksonville Armada Head Coach Tony Meola followed his coup of a signing in former Ottawa Fury FC captain and midfielder Richie Ryan with an addition on each side of the ball.

In their first offensive move of the offseason, Jacksonville inked forward Alex Dixon fresh off of a championship season with the Rochester Rhinos in the USL. Dixon netted three goals during Rochester’s run to the league’s regular season and postseason titles. On the back line, the Armada have added 25-year-old defender Beto Navarro. Like Dixon, Navarro spent 2015 in the USL with the Orange County Blues. Navarro does have valued NASL experience as he spent the 2013 and 2014 seasons with the Atlanta Silverbacks and FC Edmonton respectively.

Jacksonville also revealed that attacking midfielder Jaime Castrillon and defender Lucas Trejo would not be returning for the 2016 season.

Indy Eleven

Indy Eleven made their first offseason moves on the defensive end of the field with the re-signing of defender Daniel Keller and keeper Keith Cardona. Keller, 23, is a hometown product that made 16 appearances in his debut season for the club, notching two assists and occasionally filling in as a defensive midfielder. Cardona’s responsibilities are likely to grow greatly in the new year after the departure of veteran keeper Kristian Nicht. Cardona began 2015 as a backup, but he found himself the starter in seven of the club’s final nine matches of the regular season as Indy looked for answers to stay afloat. The 23-year-old’s 10 starts of the 2015 season were his first as a professional.

Carolina RailHawks

The RailHawks added another brick to their defensive rebuild with signing of Canadian defender and 2015 NASL Humanitarian of the Year Drew Beckie. The 25-year-old appeared 35 times for Ottawa over the past two seasons, though his playing time was reduced to 16 appearances in 2015 as others rose above him on the depth chart. Beckie joins new signings Steven Miller and Karem Moses on Carolina’s new look back line.