FC Tampa Bay practiced for two hours Thursday morning at Shimberg Fields as it continues to prepare for Saturday's crucial matchup with Puerto Rico. FCTB and the Islanders kick off at 7:00 p.m. at Al Lang Stadium on Buick/GMC Title Night, with FC Tampa Bay trailing Puerto Rico by just seven points in the race for the second seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs.
The two teams enter the match as arguably the two hottest teams in the NASL right now. FC Tampa Bay has won four straight at home and is also riding a season-long four-game unbeaten streak overall. Puerto Rico owns victories in three consecutive matches and five of its last six.
"It’s a very important match, any match towards the end of the season, is of vital importance to us," said head coach Ricky Hill. "I would like to see if we can maintain our momentum and have that good feeling around the club by winning or not losing home games. Puerto Rico is coming off a very good win last Saturday against Carolina and we’re going to be in for a very tough game."
Defender JP Rodrigues, who has started 18 matches and ranks third on the team in minutes played with 1,596, said the team has a difficult test this Saturday.
"We have Puerto Rico coming in and they have been a tough opponent for us this year," said Rodrigues. "We haven’t been able to beat them, but we’re on a good run right now. The team has come together really well and I think we’re ready for this weekend."
Tickets are still available for this weekend's match and fans won't want to miss the second annual Celebrity Game at halftime, presented by Buick/GMC. To order tickets, call 813-287-1539 or click here.
Check out interviews below with Hill and Rodrigues.