Tampa Bay Rowdies goalkeeper Matt Pickens is poised to make his 100th appearance for the club this weekend if selected for Saturday night’s match against the Harrisburg City Islanders. Yesterday, we spoke with center backs Neill Collins and Tamika Mkandawire about their relationships with Pickens. Today, we’ll hear from the man himself about reaching the milestone.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (August 2, 2017) — If selected as a starter for the Tampa Bay Rowdies’ match against the Harrisburg City Islanders, goalkeeper Matt Pickens will make his 100th appearance for the Rowdies.
He will become the fifth player to do so in the Modern Era, joining Takuya Yamada, Frankie Sanfilippo, Georgi Hristov and Keith Savage on the distinguished list. For Pickens, the Rowdies will become the second club for which he has played 100 matches, with Tampa Bay joining the Colorado Rapids, where he played from 2009 to 2013.
“It will mean a lot to me because not many players get to do that,” Pickens said of reaching 100 appearances. “I’ve already reached 100 with another club, so to be able to do it with a second club is a big deal because there’s a lot of player movement in sports and I’m happy to contribute for as long as I have.”
The version of the Rowdies Pickens will suit up for Saturday is drastically different from the version he joined in March of 2014. His first training session was in the outfield of a baseball diamond at the Walter Fuller Complex.
Since then, the Rowdies have moved their training operations to downtown St. Pete, fully renovated Al Lang Stadium, announced an application to join Major League Soccer and grown in so many other ways.
Pickens said he’s humbled to have been a part of the process so far and looks forward to much more growth in the near future.
“For me, one of the highs has been seeing this club blossom,” he said. “It’s been remarkable. The whole project has been a cool thing to be a part of and it’s something that sold me to come here. Bill (Edwards) came in with big ambitions. When I first came here, I said, ‘Well, this is what it is now, but we can make it bigger.’ Seeing the club grow alongside downtown St. Pete, with some of that energy coming from us, it’s really cool to be a part of. Hopefully this thing just gets bigger and bigger and reaches MLS.”
After a shaky run of form in June, Pickens and the Rowdies have bounced back strong in July, closing the gap at the top of the Eastern Conference to just three points with 11 games to play.
The team is unbeaten in four matches and has conceded just one goal in that span, a stoppage time penalty kick in Orlando on July 13. Pickens hasn’t conceded a goal at home since June 10.
Pickens, who has won both a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup (with the Chicago Fire in 2006) and an MLS Cup (with the Colorado Rapids in 2010), said this run resembles one he’s been on before.
“Every season has a different story and we’re creating our own right now,” Pickens said. “We’re in a good run of form. It reminds me of and mirrors what I went through in Colorado with our 2010 MLS Cup-winning team. We weren’t the best team in the league, but we peaked at the right time, with about 10 games to go to get into the playoffs and then we kept that form running through the postseason. We’ve got 11 games left and we started this run four or five games ago and we’re really starting to steamroll now. That’s a good recipe for success and I’m hoping that happens for us.”
Kickoff of Saturday’s match against the Harrisburg City Islanders is set for 7:30 p.m. at Al Lang Stadium. For tickets, call (727) 222-2000 or click here.