Rowdies forward Darwin Jones in action against the Philadelphia Union
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (February 21, 2017) — If there’s a timeframe for how quickly the Tampa Bay Rowdies should be progressing toward regular season readiness, Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell says his team is right on schedule.
Following January’s Florida Cup, which featured mostly trialists, the Rowdies took a few weeks off before beginning preseason training in earnest early in February. Since then, the Rowdies have played two matches, a closed-door training scrimmage against Orlando City SC on February 11 and Saturday’s 1-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union in the Rowdies Suncoast Invitational.
With two matches against Major League Soccer clubs under the Rowdies’ belt, Campbell feels the team is progressing nicely.
“I’ve been really happy with how things have gone so far,” he said. “We have the one game behind closed door where the team played really well and then we put in a decent performance against Philadelphia. It’s preseason, so you can’t get too carried away, but I thought the level of the performance for the first 60 minutes was pretty good.”
According to Campbell, preseason matches offer a unique challenge to the regular season with players not quite as well-rested going into matches as they will be once the regular season kicks off March 25.
“In the regular season, you obviously want the players going into games as fresh as possible, so training during the week kind of tapers toward the match,” he said. “In preseason, it’s the opposite. Training days are so valuable right now that we’re working the players really hard and they go into matches a little more fatigued than they normally would.”
Against the Union, Campbell deployed the same 4-2-3-1 formation that carried the Rowdies through most of last season, but with added speed on the wings from newcomers Darwin Jones and Leo Fernandes, plus Alex Morrell off the bench in the second half.
With that influx of speed on the perimeter, the Rowdies looked like sharper and more fluid in the attack, despite not scoring.
“I saw the way I want the Rowdies to play in those two games we’ve played so far,” Campbell said. “We’ve got some real speed and real quality outside and when you pair that with Joe Cole as your playmaker and it’s going to be really exciting to watch.”
One thing Rowdies fans didn’t get to see against Philadelphia was how Bulgarian forward Georgi Hristov, who has led the team in scoring in three of the last four seasons, will fit into the attack. He’s been held out of preseason action so far, but could be in line to make his 2017 debut this coming Saturday against the Montreal Impact.
Saturday’s Rowdies Suncoast Invitational slate boasts an exciting tripleheader at Al Lang Stadium. Toronto FC will take on the Chicago Fire at 3 p.m., D.C. United will play the Philadelphia Union at 5 and the night will be capped by the Rowdies’ game against Montreal at 7:30 p.m.
With the Major League Soccer set to begin just a week after these matches, the teams are expected to field strong lineups. Tickets are available by calling (727) 222-200 or by clicking here.