FC Tampa Bay took to Shimberg Fields Thursday morning for its last practice before leaving for Montreal on Friday.
FCTB faces the Impact this Saturday, April 23 at 2:30 p.m. in its road opener. Head Coach Ricky Hill expects the match to be even more challenging than the 2011 home opener, in which midfielder Takuya Yamada found the back of the net in the 85th minute for the 1-0 win against Montreal.
“It will be a very spectacular occasion and I expect their fans to be there in full support,” said Hill. “It will be a good learning curve for us as a team as it is our first road trip, giving us a chance to bond as a unit. I am interested to see how we stand up to the potential onslaught away from our home venue.”
Hill maintained his hands-on coaching approach Thursday morning during a drill that focused on the four defenders working as a unit. He played on the end line helping feed the ball back to the defenders while talking the players through individual passes and instructing them when to cover, press up offensively and attack the ball in the air.
“We expect one of our defenders to be competing for the ball in the air and the other two or three players to be covering,” said Hill.
Last week FCTB outshot Puerto Rico 23-10 in its Sunday evening match at Al Lang Stadium but dropped a 2-0 decision to last year’s league champions. Coach Hill is looking for the team to improve its quality and consistency of play.
“The biggest lesson we learned from Puerto Rico is that when opportunities do present themselves to score a goal, it is critical that we need to be more proficient in taking our chances or executing slightly better than what we’ve done,” said Hill. “Whether that is concentration or lack of composure or poise at vital times, these are all little things that I have identified and if we could improve on them 20 to 30 percent, then that will help us create a good feeling throughout the entire season.”
Following the Montreal match, FC Tampa Bay returns home for a season-long three-match homestand beginning on Saturday, April 30 against Atlanta.