By Logan Alexander
With all of the drama that unfolded over the off-season, and problems that were finally discovered by the public involving the situation with Jacksonville Armada Football Club, we lost a key element of this club. Due to whatever reasons, whether it was to comply with USL standards at the time regarding player salary, or an act of keeping this club alive by cutting a few of the most expensive players on the roster, most notably Jacksonville released their three top defenders. In the midst of the controversial state of the club, Matt Bahner, Mechack Jérôme, and Tyler Ruthven had their contracts terminated back on the 14th of December.
These players were heroes to fans and supporters in Jacksonville. Getting involved in every challenge, playing physically, playing for the badge. These individuals took the field week after week, playing the beautiful game with their hearts on their sleeves, for the city of Jacksonville and though we have been through a torrid two years, we can show an amazing amount of respect for these class professionals. Unfortunately, two of the three previously mentioned will not be returning to the Armada for the 2017 season.
Matt Bahner. What can I say about the guy. An absolute classy player on the pitch and off, always making autograph sessions, consistently giving everything coursing through his veins for Jacksonville, he will forever be a fan favorite. Though, FC Cincinnati came calling and the defender returned home to Ohio to play for the USL side in their second season of existence. Bahner appeared for the Armada 46 times and netted three goals, most notably against Minnesota United away from home in the 88th minute, giving the Armada a 1-0 lead and charging them on to their second ever away victory. In a farewell tweet, Matt wrote “To the fans, you all have been incredible in your support and helping make the city of Jacksonville one that I was proud to call home..”
Within the same week, defender Tyler Ruthven found a new home, one that makes plenty of supporters of the Fleet have a bitter taste in their mouth. The Section 904 Defender of the Year, and Player of the Year in 2016, parted ways with JAFC to and signed for the big spenders in South Florida, Miami FC.
The ex- New York Red Bulls center back started 31 games for Jacksonville in 2016, amassing for nearly 2,800 minutes played with a lone goal that came against Rayo OKC in a 3-2 loss. With so many new faces leaving the club, and having more join, nobody really knew what our lineup might be heading into opening day of 2016. After a difficult start to life in Jacksonville, Ruthven emerged as one of the most consistent players on the Armada starting eleven team sheet and even wore the captain’s armband in a run of game to end the year. Ruthven shared the same philosophy as Matt Bahner when it came to throwing on an Armada shirt. For the club, for the city. There was a job to be done and both players fought for everything on the field, not selfishly for themselves but for us as fans. *salute*
Now, looking into the future, Jacksonville Armada Football Club have secured the re-signing of Haitian defender, Mechack Jérôme. The 26-year-old menace of a center back has made 31 appearances for Jacksonville dating back to the fall of 2015. He has scored a couple goals, and is a necessity to the needs of the club.
Out of the five players that were released in December, Jérôme is the player that anyone would choose to make a comeback to the squad. Not only is the Haitian dominant in the air, quick and agile, and very smart, he also has a knack for shooting and is not afraid to pull the trigger from forty yards out if need be. This specialty is also applied to free kicks as he was the main man for the duty during the bulk of the last year, even scoring from twenty-five yards out to equalize against Orlando City last pre-season.
We all know who he is, his background, who he has played for etc. Also, we know what to expect from a player of such quality. It’s time to raise expectations this season for Mechack Jérôme as currently he is being dubbed as one of the best center-backs in the league heading into the 2017 calendar year.