Jacksonville native now goalkeeper for Armada FC

Jacksonville native now goalkeeper for Armada FC
Jacksonville Armada FC goalkeeper Kyle Nasta makes a save during a recent practice session. Nasta, a graduate of Episcopal High and UNF, is the first player to move from the Armada’s development program to its professional team.

As a pioneer moving from the team’s development program to its highest-level professional squad, Kyle Nasta feels a sense of pride and responsibility each time he dons the Jacksonville Armada Football Club’s navy blue and white kit.

After starting six games for the Armada’s Under-23 development squad last year, the Episcopal School of Jacksonville and University of North Florida graduate finished with a 1.77 goals-against average and helped lead his side to a second-place finish in the NPSL Sunshine Conference. The Jacksonville native was then called up to the pro team in September 2016 as its first-ever signee from within the team’s U-23 program.

“Kyle has made great strides. He’s definitely shown a little bit of presence, a little bit of authority back there which is good,” said second-year Armada FC head coach Mark Lowry. “He’s able to learn from [starter] Caleb Patterson-Sewell, who has a lot of experience and has been a good teacher.

“Now we’re at a point where we’re comfortable with Kyle if Caleb gets injured, or, like a couple of weeks ago when Caleb had a suspension, we’re more than comfortable with Kyle Nasta stepping in there. He has definitely cemented himself in the squad. The guys like him and he can only get better from this point on.”

Nasta, 23, first started playing soccer at about six years old and progressed through Jacksonville Futbol Club youth programs. He also played baseball as a youngster and credits that sport with helping develop skills that have aided his soccer career.

“I think wanting to be a goalkeeper came from my baseball roots, because in baseball it’s a lot of hand-eye coordination,” Nasta said. “So, it kind of transferred to soccer very well and I was able to make saves and learn how to use my body and dive around and have that hand-eye coordination.”

A Mandarin native, he attended Mandarin High for a year but switched to Episcopal as a sophomore.

“They have a good soccer program, so it was a really tough decision to leave Mandarin and go to Episcopal,” Nasta explained. “But actually, in choosing Episcopal it was all about the academic side. My parents and I thought it would be a better situation for the future to go to Episcopal because it has such a rigorous curriculum. I made that switch purely for academics; the soccer was just a plus.”

Recruited by a few colleges in North Carolina, Nasta instead opted for UNF where he earned a degree in sports management. On the field for the Ospreys, he earned distinction as a two-time All-Atlantic Sun Conference selection, was named ASUN Goalkeeper of the Year in 2014 and finished as the school’s Division I career leader in saves (150), wins (18) and shutouts (10).

“During the summers, I played here at the National Premier Soccer League, which is like a third division league in soccer,” said Nasta. “I would come out here and play for the Armada U-23 team so I was developing during the summer. The coaches for the first team here saw what I could do whenever their goalkeeper, the first-team goalkeeper got hurt, and I was able to come up through the system and be able to make my way onto the first team.

“In many ways, it’s all about timing in this sport. I’ve been fortunate in that regard. You also have to show people that you’re willing to learn and work hard for what you want.”

In Lowry’s estimation, Nasta is already among the top North American Soccer League goalkeepers in at least one category. “His shot stoppage, in terms of saves that he can make,” said Lowry, a native of Great Britain who played for English clubs Stafford Rangers, Halesowen Town and Hereford United. “His agility, in close quarters, to pull off those reaction-type saves – it’s up there with the best of them. In my opinion, he’s probably the best shot-stopper in the league and I include all goalkeepers.

“Now, there are other things that go into goalkeeping. It’s not just saving shots nowadays. You have to be good with your feet, you have to be a good communicator, you have to manage the game, to show bravery in certain situations and those are things he can improve upon. But we’ve definitely seen a massive progression in his all-around game.”

In addition to the satisfaction of representing his hometown on the pitch, Nasta also feels a sense of responsibility. He has worked with youngsters as a goalkeeper coach in Armada FC youth programs, seeing a bit of himself in the faces of kids who aspire to emulate his success.

“Jacksonville is a great place. It’s a diverse community so it’s a very cool city that’s also sports oriented,” he noted. “This is the city where I grew up so I want to represent my city well. It’s pride and responsibility in terms of being a member of the Armada.

“This has been a great experience. Before, I’d never been in a professional environment, so being exposed to this type of intensity every single day is great. Day in and day out you have to bring what you have to the table. So that’s really been something good for me to be able to build proper habits, to help build my career and work towards the future.”

By Robert DeAngelo
Resident Community News

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