Empire Grants Robert Palmer Trade to Kansas City

by Gunnar Berndt

Fan favorite returns to Missouri for family-related reasons

Ontario, Calif. — The Empire Strykers have granted the wish of defender Robert Palmer for a trade back to his previous club, fellow Major Arena Soccer League (MASL) outfit Kansas City Comets. The 34-year-old, who was born in Kingston, Jamaica but has spent most of his adult life in Missouri, requested the move for family-related reasons. He departs the Strykers after spending three seasons as a fan favorite, a standout player, and one of the team’s emotional leaders. 

In exchange for Palmer, Empire receives financial considerations as well as first-round picks in both the 2024 MASL Combine Draft and the 2024 MASL College Draft. 

Prior to the transaction being finalized, Palmer used the off-season to reconnect with his adopted home state. A graduate of Missouri’s Park University, he recently landed a job with his alma mater as assistant coach of the men’s soccer team.

“It was an absolute pleasure being part of the Empire Strykers for the past three years” said Palmer in a written statement. “I was very fortune to make so many memories that will stay with me forever. I will be forever grateful to the fans and the entire organiztion – from (Empire’s managing partner) Mr. Jeff Burum at the top to the entire staff and my teammates – for the amazing time spent together. Thank you to all of you!”

Following the departure of a key contributor in the back, the Strykers will no doubt lean even more heavily on new arrivals like former Utica City FC man Stefan Mijatovic as well as the vastly experienced Israel Sesay and Claude Bilal Dielna. While both long-time captain Sesay and recently signed Frenchman Dielna are alumni of Major League Soccer (MLS), Dielna’s expansive outdoor career also included stops in the French Ligue 1 and the English Championship.

This fall, Stefan Mijatovic represented the U.S. minifootball national team at the 2023 WMF Minifootball World Cup in Ras Al Khaima, United Arab Emirates, helping the Stars and Stripes advance to the knockout stages. 

The Empire defense will be tested during a three-game road swing to open the 2023-24 season as well as a blockbuster clash with the visiting Baltimore Blast on December 15. Tickets to the Strykers’ home opener may be purchased here.

After seven successful campaigns with Kansas City, interrupted by a brief stint with the Tacoma Stars, Robert Palmer joined the Ontario Fury (now Empire Strykers) in 2020. Although the Covid-19 pandemic made for a tumultuous first two seasons with his new club, the defender displayed textbook professionalism throughout. In 2021, Palmer helped power Empire’s run to the Ron Newman Cup final, his heroics along the way earning him All-MASL First Team honors and the award for MASL Defender of the Year. 

The Strykers’ new executive vice president, Jimmy Nordberg, was the team’s head coach during all of Palmer’s time in Southern California. While acknowledging the challenge presented by losing a crucial member of the roster, Nordberg struck an empathic note and expressed gratitude for Palmer’s impact on the turf and in the community. 

“We’re giving up a top player and a class act,” he said. “While it will be difficult to replace Robert, the truth is that sometimes soccer isn’t all that matters. We were asked to make a trade because someone wants to be closer to his family. That’s a feeling we can all relate to. I’d like to thank Robert for his contributions as a player and as an ambassador of the club. Our fans will surely miss him.” 

The Empire Strykers kick off their MASL regular season with a pair of road games in Mexico, as they face the Chihuahua Savage on November 24 and the Monterrey Flash on November 26, followed by a trip to take on the St. Louis Ambush on December 9. Empire’s highly anticipated home opener against Baltimore at Ontario’s Toyota Arena is set for December 15.