When: 7:30 pm, Saturday, March 19th 2022
Where: Al Lang Stadium, St. Petersburg FL
Last Meeting: 1-1, October 19th 2019
|Neill Collins||Head Coach||Mark Lowry|
at Birmingham Legion FC
|Last Match||L 1-0 |
at Loudon United
|1: Cochran||Saves||2: Panicco-|
LOWRY LEADS OFFSEASON OVERHAUL: After a subpar 2021 campaign, the Indy Eleven brass got to work immediately to remake the squad in the offseason – starting at the top with the appointment of Mark Lowry as the fourth full-time head coach in club history.
Lowry lands in the Circle City after a three-season stint with El Paso Locomotive FC, which he guided to a 42W19L-29D record in USL Championship regular season, USL Championship Playoffs, and Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup action from 2019-21. The native of Birmingham, England, improved Locomotive FC’s record across each of their first three seasons of play, the first two of which culminated in back-to-back appearances in the Western Conference Final. Lowry’s 40 regular season victories over those three years rank as the fourth most amongst USL Championship coaches across that span.
During El Paso’s 2021 campaign, Lowry led Locomotive FC to an impressive 18W-4L-10D (64 points) ledger that easily clinched the Championship’s Mountain Division title and marked the third highest point total across the 31team league. Lowry earned the July 2021 USL Championship Coach of the Month honor, which coincided with the club’s 23-game home undefeated run that stretched over a calendar year and was, at one point, the longest such streak in North American professional soccer.
Prior to El Paso, Lowry’s first stop as a head coach came with the NASL & NPSL’s Jacksonville Armada from 201618, which was preceded by four seasons at MLS side Orlando City SC with their Academy squads and U-23 team in the then USL PDL (now USL League 2).
Lowry will be joined on the Eleven sideline this season by a pair of familiar lieutenants in Assistant Coach Matt Williams and Director, Sport Performance & Assistant Coach Gabe Zapponi, both of whom worked with Lowry in both El Paso and Jacksonville. Andy Swift is the lone holdover on the Coaching Staff, returning for his fifth season as the club’s Goalkeeper Coach.
NEW CREW OF BOYS IN BLUE: The Indy Eleven roster also received a makeover in the offseason, as 16 of the current 28 players are spending their first seasons as Boys in Blue in 2022 (new players listed in bold):
Goalkeeper: Elliot Panicco, Tor Saunders, ^Alex Svetanoff, Tim Trilk
Defender: A.J. Cochran, Mechack Jérôme, Alex McQueen, Karl Ouimette, Noah Powder, ^Ecris Revolorio, Jared Timmer, ^Bryce Warhaft
Midfielder: Raul Aguilera, Ayoze, ^Aiden Benitez, Sam Brown, Jonas Fjeldberg, Neveal Hackshaw, Justin Ingram, Nicky Law, Bryam Rebellón, ^Diego Sanchez, Alann Torres
Forward: Manuel Arteaga, ^Palmer Ault, Aris Briggs, ^Luca Iaccino, Stefano Pinho
^ denotes USL Academy Contract player
Two of those newcomers – DF Mechack Jerome and MF Bryam Rebellon – bring plenty of familiarity with Lowry after playing for the sideline boss in both Jacksonville and El Paso. In addition, MF Raul Aguilera was a player in Orlando City SC’s Academy set-up under Lowry, bridging a seven-year gap between stints under the new Eleven coach.
Of the 12 returning players for Indiana’s Team, five received no or minimal minutes as USL Academy Contract players in 2021 (more on that later), leaving just seven regular contributors from last year’s side to carryover – marking the second straight season of similar overhauling.
That crew of seven “senior” returnees – defenders A.J. Cochran, Karl Ouimette, and Jared Timmer; midfielders Ayoze, Neveal Hackshaw, and Nicky Law; and forward Manuel Arteaga – represented pretty much half of the squad’s returning production, including:
– 49% of minutes played last season (all seven played at least 1,500 minutes)
– 48% of assists created (10 of 21, including a team-high 5 by Ayoze)
– 48% of goals scored (15 of 31, including a team-high 10 by Manuel Arteaga)
Of the returning players, Ouimette and Ayoze are back for their club-record-tying fifth season (equaling Brad Ring’s mark from 2014-18) and Hackshaw for his fourth, while Arteaga, Cochran, Law and Timmer return for year #2.
About Tampa Bay:
The Tampa Bay Rowdies take the field for the first time at Al Lang Stadium in 2022 this Saturday versus Indy Eleven. After giving up a late equalizer in the draw at Birmingham Legion FC in last week’s season opener, the Rowdies will be eager take all three points in front of their home supporters.
Indy will be equally hungry for a victory after falling 1-0 to Loudoun United FC last week. Head Coach Mark Lowry has largely rebuilt Indy’s roster since taking over in the offseason. Lowry spent the previous four seasons building El Paso Locomotive FC into a perennial contender in the USL Championship’s Western Conference.
Saturday’s match-up is an exciting one for both the players and supporters in the stands as it marks the return to the league’s traditional format, with teams playing each conference foe once at home and once away. The remaining fixtures will be played against opposition from the opposite conference. After being forced into group play and facing the same handful of teams four times throughout the year, the action of this year’s competition will have a bit more variety. Saturday will be the first time Tampa Bay and Indy have met on the field since October of 2019.
The Rowdies spent the majority of the offseason seeking out new defensive options to ensure the club maintain its high defensive standard set over the last few seasons. Defender Timmy Mehl was one of the first signings of the offseason, while center back Robert Castellanos was secured on loan from Major League Soccer’s Nashville SC in the final week of preseason. Castellanos earned the starting spot in the central position of Tampa Bay’s back line for the season opener only to be downed by a fractured ankle 12 minutes into the match.
Central midfielder Laurence Wyke ended up shifting back to fill Castellanos’ role, while Junior Etou came off the bench to make his Rowdies debut and take on Wyke’s position in midfield. All in all, the Rowdies still managed to put in a sturdy defensive shift against Birmingham. The hosts were limited to just two shots on net, both from outside the box. Unfortunately, one of those shots ended up bing placed perfectly into the top right corner.
For this Saturday, Collins and his staff have a decision to make on who will anchor the center of the back line for hopefully the full 90 minutes.
“I thought Laurence stepped in and did a really great job as a middle center back, we’ve obviously got other options as well,” said Collins. “We’re still at this moment considering what we’re gonna do.”
Conner Antley, Jordan Scarlett, Timmy Mehl, and Wyke are all potential options for the Rowdies to fill in the gap in the center of the back line.