We’ve been pretty spoiled in Tampa Bay when it comes to our sports team. Back to Back Stanley Cups (even if it is at the expense of my beloved Islanders, you jerks), a Super Bowl win in our home stadium, and the reigning American League Champions who seem on pace for another stellar October run. Who wouldn’t want to see Brett Phillips airplane through the infield after the Rays clinch their first World Series Title?
Oh. Yeah. We also have the defending USL Eastern Conference Champion Tampa Bay Rowdies.
The Rowdies have established themselves comfortably in first place of their division and have taken a slight lead in the conference as a whole. The Green and Gold are currently nine matches unbeaten and haven’t conceded a goal since the ninth minute against RBNYII on the 6th of August. It is at the time of writing this the 21st of September. Holy hell, this is a streak. What is even more impressive, the Rowdies’ form up until that goal in New York, was the shakiest part of Neill Collins’ tenure as head coach, losing four of the previous six matches. We started asking questions. The team looked listless. We have seen this show before. A blazing hot start erased by injuries and bad form. Neill told us to chill. It is better than it looks. Let’s get the injured players back. Boy, was he right. When the kids of New York netted that goal early in that match it felt like that could have been it. The team could have folded and let their chins sink into their chests. Little did we know it wasn’t our spirits that broke, it was the proverbial dam holding back the goals, and defensive records. USL and US Soccer shutout records. It was as if that goal slammed the mental clutch down and the lads shifted into a gear nobody was prepared for.
I’m writing this not to tell you what changed tactically, you can listen to us break that down Wednesday nights at 8pm on Radio St. Pete, but just to remind us to breathe and appreciate what this team is doing. I’ve been speaking semi-coherent nonsense into a microphone about this club for the better part of seven years and this is the best I’ve seen them look. I’ve never consistently felt confident going into each and every match before. I have never seen this club win in so many different ways. Double digit unique goal scorers, Set piece goals, diving headers, penalties, sweet pass and moves, thunder bastards, team build ups, individual efforts. They can do it all while remaining tighter than a frog’s butthole on defense. This is fun. This is magical. This is historic. The superlatives could take a week, and my dog ate my thesaurus. So, crack open a Big Storm (or a Bud Light if you’re a certain painted faced capo) and enjoy this. Together.