As expected the Jacksonville Armada FC named former US Men’s National Team standout and MLS MVP Tony Meola as the club’s Head Coach on Tuesday. Meola addressed several issues with the national media after his appointment was made official.
The former standout Goalkeeper has assisted with the US Youth National Team program, co-hosted a daily Sirius XM soccer show (which yours truly has appeared on!) and spent time in Miami as a commentator with beIN Sport recently. He also has worked with FOX Sports several times this season on MLS games when the network had doubleheaders or scheduling conflicts with other soccer events .
With all of this background Meola has plenty of perspective on the game in the United States. He’s already begun building a competent and experienced staff and per our sources be given multiple years to build a winning program.
Here were some of the key points from the discussion yesterday with Meola.
Q: How has being a player, as well as a broadcaster, shaped your coaching philosophy going into your first coaching job?
“It is funny, I had this conversation with my close friend just yesterday before I got on the plane. I was lucky to be able to call over 60 games, just last year alone. Between U-17, U-18, MLS, NASL, ICC Tournament, US Men’s National Team, it was funny how many people would come to me and say ‘it really sounds like you know the game.’ A compliment for sure, but I knew that this has been my life every day.”
“When I first went to FOX they ask you in an opening questionnaire, ‘How do you look at the game?’ I had an answer – as a coach. There are certain things that you have to recognize and then adjust to. That is what I did as an analyst. I had to study the games every day and started to think that way, so I think that helped. I have done research around the country, and I have friends in three of the big leagues in the U.S. I have leaned on a bunch of people and asked questions. I feel confident enough to get this team going in the right direction.”
Q: How many Armada games have you seen this year and based on what you have seen what are the area’s that need improvement?
“I believe that I have seen every single game. I have notes on just about every game. I have called, I believe it is three Armada games this year. I am very familiar with the team, very familiar with what has been built here in the community and very familiar with the players.”
“Having said that, two or three weeks ago they released eight players and going through those films, I completely agree that they made all the right decisions. When I got here, there were players identified already. We have and are still discussing those players. We hope to have some signings that we are excited about.”
“The one thing that sticks out to me is the inefficiency on the road; the inability to win games on the road. You can’t talk about being a champion until you start winning games on the road. I get that you want to win everything at home. For me, there is some real character building on the road when you get on a bus and take that trip. This team hasn’t found a way to do that yet. We need to bring guys that understand that.”
“We need some more leaders in this group; I don’t think you can have enough of them. We also need some guys that are champions and know what it takes to win a championship. It is easier said than done. If we could paint an ultimate picture for ourselves, that would be it.”
Meola also discussed how his broadcast career helped create a context for understanding the game better and that he had looked long and hard at the next spot for him and determined Jacksonville was the right place. Given the resources allocated by the Armada ownership and the commitment level of the fans, Meola should find success in this job. The club also has learned that in US-based leagues it is wise to employ coaches who know the system and players in the region in order to be successful. Since Jacksonville finished just 10 points out of a postseason spot this year despite making numerous coaching and personnel mistakes, it is almost a certainty Meola will have the Aramda in a more competitive place and ready to compete for a spot in the NASL Championship for 2016.