TAMPA, Fla. (October 12, 2018) — A pair of Tampa Bay Rowdies alums took the field at Raymond James Stadium on Thursday night, playing for the United States national team in a Kickoff Series friendly against Colombia.
Ben Sweat and Fafa Picault both came off interim coach Dave Sarachan’s bench in the second half of a 4-2 loss in front of a record-setting crowd of 38,631.
Sweat is a Palm Harbor native with huge ties to the Tampa Bay community. After playing club soccer in Pinellas County, he played college soccer and set a new appearances record at the University of South Florida. After being drafted in the first round of the Major League Soccer SuperDraft in 2014, Sweat struggled for playing time with Columbus Crew SC, departing after one season without making a single appearance.
In need of significant playing time, Sweat signed with his hometown Rowdies and played a total of 36 matches in 2015 and 2016, earning himself a trial and eventually a contract with New York City FC.
“I think a lot of players go into their first year expecting more and something can change like that,” Sweat said. “It’s important for young players to play and to have confidence. That’s something I was able to get with the Rowdies. I got even games where I was at a confidence level where I knew I could make a jump back to MLS.”
His consistency in MLS earned him this first national team call-up and he was able to make his debut in his home town, replacing Antonee Robinson at left back in the immediate aftermath of Radamel Falcao’s go-ahead goal.
Picault made his second appearance for the national team, replacing Kenny Saief in the 58th minute.
Picault played for the Rowdies in 2012, making 19 appearances in helping the team win the Soccer Bowl. He made a penalty kick in the decisive second leg shootout.
It was a remarkable moment for Rowdies fans to see two former Rowdies on the field for the national team at the same time and for it to happen in Tampa Bay made it all the more special.