This upcoming Saturday will mark the rebirth of a rivalry that has long been awaiting its return to professional soccer. On August 10 at Al Lang Stadium, the Tampa Bay Rowdies and the New York Cosmos will face one another for the first time in three decades.
Rowdies former player Mike Connell is no stranger to this rivalry, having faced the Cosmos dozens of times in his nine seasons with the Rowdies. Tampa Bay’s legendary defender will take part of a unique celebration at halftime, as the Rowdies will retire his number 6.
“I can’t express my gratitude towards everyone who made this happen,” commented Connell. “The Tampa Bay community understands this rivalry and to have my number retired at halftime is such an honor. I can’t wait to see these clubs battle it off this Saturday.”
Both clubs share a rich past and tradition, something that the South African defender is excited to see in the modern rivalry.
“It’s the iconic rivalry in American soccer. There is so much pride that goes into this match. If the players understand the history behind it, they will play to protect their team’s reputation and it will be a passionate match that we all will enjoy.”
In his nine seasons with the club, Connell remembers both highs and lows when facing the Cosmos.
“When looking at the past matches, the most disappointing defeat came in the 1978 NASL Soccer Bowl,” explained Connell. “ I felt we had everything to win that championship, but we were just overwhelmed by the situation. They had the home-field advantage and it got to us.”
“Iron Mike” did mention that his most fond memory was taking the winning shot in the penalty shootout against German goalkeeper Hubert Birkenmeier.
“To step up in that match and take the winning shot is something I will never forget. Our home fans were electric and it felt incredible to score such an important goal.”
With more than just a soccer match on the line, Saturday will mark the return of one of the most traditional rivalries in soccer. The Rowdies and the Cosmos will kick off at 7:30 p.m. knowing that they will need a win to inch closer to a spot in the NASL Soccer Bowl 2013. To purchase tickets for this historic match, call (813) 287-1539 or click here.