by JAKE NUTTING
The Tampa Bay Rowdies revealed this afternoon that midfielder Verneri Valimaa has been sent on a season-long loan to the OC Blues in the USL. This follows the announcement last week that midfielder Jeff Michaud was also sent on loan to the USL’s Wilmington Hammerheads.
It might seem odd at first glance to see the Rowdies loan out Valimaa, 23, and Michaud, 22, to the USL given that the club is set to launch its NPSL reserve squad, Rowdies 2, in May.
According to the Rowdies, the two players are at a point in their development when they need a more competitive and rigorous environment than the one currently offered by Rowdies 2.
COO Lee Cohen was adamant that the loans had zero to with making space on the roster for future possible signings. He says the moves are all about giving the club a chance to evaluate the two over the course of a challenging 30-game regular season in the USL, as opposed to the more truncated 10-game NPSL season.
With playing time in this year’s midfield especially hard to come by, Cohen says the opportunity to allow what the club values as two talented and promising players a real shot at more meaningful minutes couldn’t be passed up. The pair each made four appearances in their debut season last year, combining for less than 200 minutes of total playing time.
As for what type of players do fit the mold for Rowdies 2, the club will make that clear soon. A coaching hire for the squad is expected imminently and limited tryouts will be held later in April.