ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (June 23, 2018) — The Tampa Bay Rowdies’ long regulation home unbeaten run is over and so is Marcel Schäfer’s Rowdies career. This after a frustrating 2-1 home loss to Penn FC on Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium.
Here’s Three Things to think about after the match…
1. Danke Marcel
Friday night’s match was always going to be an emotional one as the Rowdies’ mercurial midfielder played the final match of his outstanding 16-year playing career. Schäfer was accompanied onto the field by his three children for the first time ever and wore the captain’s armband.
Schäfer tallied his 15th and final assist for the Rowdies in the 34th minute, to put Tampa Bay ahead. As the match slipped away, Schäfer kept fighting to close his playing career on a positive note, but it was ultimately not to be.
After the match, Schäfer remained on the field for more than an hour, soaking in the atmosphere and signing autographs and posing for pictures with anyone who asked for one. He seemed to be in no hurry to take his uniform off for the final time.
In his postgame media availability, he spoke fondly of his time in Tampa Bay.
“I think I’ve been here one and a half, almost two years, and the relationship between me and the Rowdies family is huge,” Schäfer said. “I think this is a special relationship and this is why it makes this step so hard. I think there’s no doubt that this is a great opportunity for me to be a Sporting Director for a Bundesliga club especially at my age, especially for the club of my heart where I played over ten years. I have to say I am and was really proud to be a part of the Rowdies family and this is definitely not the end, it’s just the start of a great new relationship. It’s a great thing that I’m young, so I may be able to come back so many times. Our offseason is a different offseason than the Rowdies so I will definitely come back soon to Al Lang Stadium.”
As he steps into his new role as Sporting Director of VfL Wolfsburg, the equivalent of General Manager, Schäfer won’t linger too long on the disappointment of losing his final game, instead focusing on his joy about being able to play for as long as he did.
“We maybe lost one decision which helps the other team to win that game, but that’s part of soccer. All the feelings, winning and losing games, battling with your teammates, this is what it’s all about. It’s all about emotions, even when we lose I enjoy that every day of my career and I think it’s a privilege to be a soccer player, to do what you love every day. This is really special for me and now I’m so proud to start my next career in soccer too. I think this is really special for me and I’m happy for that.”
2. Another suspension coming
Since Neill Collins took over as head coach of the Rowdies on May 18, he’s had a handful of unexpected obstacles pop up to make his first few weeks in charge exceptionally difficult. Injuries to Kyle Curinga, Zac Portillos, Lance Rozeboom and Junior Flemmings have decimated the squad, plus the departures of Schäfer, Jack Blake and himself from the playing squad, and recent suspensions for both Schäfer and captain Joe Cole.
Now, he’ll have another speed bump to navigate as Leon Taylor and faces a suspension for Wednesday’s match against the Charlotte Independence. Taylor was shown a straight red card in the 51st minute for a high elbow. Taylor has scored in each of the Rowdies' last two matches (his first two appearances for the club) but will now be forced to take a break.
Tampa Bay signed two players this past week in Afrim Taku and Dominic Oduro and Collins revealed after the match that he hopes more might be on the way.
“There’s hopefully going to be more (signings) to come,” Collins said. “At the same time, we need to get people back from injury, we’ve now got players suspended. It’s been a real baptism by fire for me in the first five weeks there’s been things coming at me from all angles: two sendoffs, not from over-aggressive play but just from different circumstances as well as injuries. It’s a great learning curve for me and something that we have to adapt to but we’ll try to bring in reinforcements, of course.”
3. The streak ends
Tampa Bay’s loss to Penn FC on Friday night was the Rowdies’ first regulation loss in more than a calendar year, dating back all the way to April 22, 2017. In that time, the Rowdies posted a record of 11-0-7 (W-L-T) over that period in regulation matches. It was the longest home unbeaten run in the Rowdies’ Modern Era.