Photo by Patrick Patterson/Unused Substitutes

Tampa Bay Rowdies Head Coach Neill Collins will have to miss out on Sunday’s USL Championship Final against Phoenix Rising FC after testing positive for COVID-19. Additionally, his assistant coach Kevin Foley and one more unidentified individual within the Rowdies organization tested positive and will therefore not be at Al Lang for the match.

“After my confirmed positive test result, I and my family began quarantining and we’ll continue to quarantine for a minimum of 14 days,” Collins told the media on Friday. “I’ll be tested continuously until I receive two consecutive negative test results. Stuart Dobson and Chad Burt will lead the team in my absence. I’ve complete confidence in them, the staff, and the players. We’ve made it here together as a team and that’ll be what sustains us through to the final push. I urge all the fans and everyone to take the virus seriously. Wear your masks and practice social distancing.”

The entire Rowdies organization was tested for the virus on Monday after the club’s trip Louisville last week. Those results all came back negative on Tuesday. However, Collins reported mild symptons for COVID-19 on Thursday and subsequently tested positive. The entire organztion was tested once again on Friday morning at the Tampa Bay Rays’ medical facility using rapid testing, with no additional positives coming. Only Collins, Foley and the other unidentified individual tested positive. The Rowdies will go through the same testing process Saturday morning.

That leaves Assistant Coaches Stuart Dobson and Chad Burt to take over coaching duties on the sideline. Dobson is the more senior of the two, having served as a Rowdies assistant and goalkeeping coach since 2015 and serving in the same role at the college level for seven years before that. Burt is a St. Pete native who played for the Rowdies and is only in his first year coaching professionally. Dobson will take the lead on Sunday. Coincidentally, Dobson was a teammate of Phoenix’s Head Coach Rick Schantz at the University of Portland in the 90s.

“I would love to be there to share it with the players and the staff and the fans, but this part of a bigger picture,” Collins said. “This is something we’ve been building toward for two years. It’s something that’ll last much longer than one night. There’s disappointment, but it’s something we’ve made our peace with and we start preparing so that the team can perform on Sunday evening.”

Collins indicated he does plan on being in communication with the Rowdies bench somehow, they just haven’t work out the details yet. Throughout the season, Burt has been seated at the top of the midfield section, watching the match from above and relaying his perspective back to Foley through a walkie-talkie. They’ll need something with a longer range than walkie-talkies this weekend to stay in contact.

“I really trust the guys that are gonna be on the sidelines,,” Collins said. “How we decide to get information from me to them is still to be decided… I think you prepare the team Monday through Friday and then come Saturday, yes you influence the game, but not as much as you’d like to. Once the boys take the field, you can make substitutions and you can shout as much as you want, but if you do all the work between now and then you like to feel it’s then up to the players to go and just play their game. I trust the guys.”

Sunday’s match is scheduled to start at 8:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN.

Photo via Patrick Patterson/Unused Substitutes

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