For the first time in 2020 the Tampa Bay Rowdies will be looking to rebound from a loss after a lackluster showing last Saturday saw them fall to the Charleston Battery 1-0.

Midfielder Jordan Doherty says the Rowdies locker room is anxious to get on the field again and host Miami FC this Wednesday.

“We’ve got a lot of winners, people that want to win in the changing room,” Doherty said. “We’re looking forward to getting back out there. That’s the good thing with football, there’s always the next game. Thankfully we’ve got one tomorrow to put it right. We were all disappointed with the result and the performance.”

The last meeting between the Rowdies and Miami on August 16 happened under similar circumstances. Tampa Bay was playing on short rest, while Miami had a full week to prepare. Miami managed to take a point off the Rowdies that day — their first of the year — and have posted a draw, a win, and a loss in the weeks since.

“Miami are gonna be well up for it,” Rowdies head coach Neill Collins said. “They’re looking for a win just as much as we are. I just believe in our guys. I know their personalities. They are gonna be so motivated tomorrow night for their own reasons, for their pride.”

Miami only needed to score once to earn their point off the Rowdies — a well-executed counter attack finished off by Sebastian Velasquez. Charleston also had success in transition against the Rowdies. Their lone goal was the result of a quick pass down followed by a individual brilliant finish by Stavros Zarakostas.

Playing the way the Rowdies do, with three men on the back line, comes with the risk of being vulnerbale to counter attacks. That won’t deter Collins from implementing the style he wants to play, though. He has confidence in the ability of the players to defend the counter well as they have in most instances, despite a few costly hiccups.

“As you’re gonna try and get after teams and try to dominate the ball, at times you could turn it over and be in trouble,” Collins said. “We’d started the (Miami) game so well, and then got hit by a sucker punch goal. We’ve got defenders that generally deal with that really well. We’re always looking to try and tighten certain things up without giving too much away. It’s always a balance.”

Part of why the vulnerability of the Rowdies to the counter is sticking out right now is that they’re offensive outpout in Charleston was so poor. A single header by Juan Tejada in the second half was their only attempt on target. Had they produced more chances Zarokosta’s goal obviously wouldn’t have mattered so much.

“Miami are full of talent. We know they’re got really good players. We always respect that,” Collins said. “A big part of what we do is focusing on ourselves. I’m hoping to see the Tampa Bay Rowdies that we’re used to seeing out there tomorrow night.”

Doherty’s Maturation

Jordan Doherty unfortunately had to celebrate his 20th birthday on the day of the Rowdies’ loss in Charleston. On the plus side, though, he did score his first career goal the previous week with a tremendous strike from long range.

If you watch the replay  of the goal from about 20 seconds before Doherty’s blast, you can see the Irishman seriously considering taking a shot way outside the box. He elected not to in that moment, but it was all systems go when the ball returned to him less than a minute later in basically the same spot.

“I think he was a bit shocked, as was I,” Doherty jokingly said of Collins’ reaction to his long-range rocket. “Hopefully I can score a few more, though. One’s not really enough. That would be one thing I really want to improve on, is going forward. Being able to get more goals and assists in the future would help myself and the team a lot.”

The night he scored, Doherty had some messages from loved ones back in Ireland waiting when he stepped off the field. Even with the time difference, they rarely miss a Rowdies match.

“My family stays up most nights and watch every game,” he said. “They get the Youtube stream on and they stay up and watch. It’s kinda great to see that. There’s obviously a five hour difference. They’re sitting up late into the night and then my mom is still waking up early to go to work. Most of the time I speak with them after the game. It’s nice to now they’re watching.”

Doherty might not have taken a shot like that last year, when he was still finding his footing in his first season as a professional player. However, this season he’s become more assertive and comfortable trying to expand his game in midfield.

“Last season was a huge learning curve for me,” he said. “Obviously it was my first season in men’s football, so pretty much every day I was learning something new, picking up on different things and playing with different types of players. I was just constantly learning every day. I was just trying to soak it all in. That was really a big year for me and it’s really allowed me to push on.”

Last season Doherty was known for his sturdy defensive work in the midfield. He’s still bringing that to the table, but now he’s trying to become more effective in creating chances for the Rowdies down the field as well.

“When you’ve got the kind of team we’ve got, with the goals we’re trying to achieve, I feel it just drives me on and makes me want to do the best I can for the team,” he noted. “With the bunch of lads and staff we’ve got, we’re playing for each other and trying to do our best for each other. I think I go off that and try and do my best for the lads.” 

Capitalizing on the Quick Homestand

Savor these two home matches, Rowdies fans. It will be your only chance of seeing the Rowdies play at Al Lang in September. After Sunday’s bout against Philiadelphia Union II the Rowdies will play at Charleston, Atlanta and then Miami.

The Rowdies could greatly aid their cause in Group H by capitalizing on being at home this week before heading back out on the road for a rematch with the Battery, who could be first in the group by that time depending on how this week goes.

“At home we definitely need to implement our game,” Doherty said. “We need to just focus on ourselves these next two games. They’re important games, as every game is, and they come quick. Hopefully we can do the job. We’ll just keep concentrating on each game and take each one as it comes because every team poses a different threat and we need to focus on that. There’s no point looking to the future if we can’t get past the one that’s right in front of us.”

Collins, though, is sure to point out that the prospect of an extended time away from home is not as daunting as it might have been in years past. The Rowdies have already recorded three wins in five road games this year.

“I’m aware we’ve got two home games and then we’re away, but you look at our season and we’ve done equally as well on the road. It doesn’t hold fear for us,” Collins said. “The boys prepare really well. We all try and do everything we can on the road. They thrive going into these tough places to play. We’ll be ready for whatever comes but it’s always nice to play at home. I’m sure the players will want to take advantage of two back-to-back home games and enjoy playing at home by putting in a good performance.”

Team Tampa Bay Votes Together

The ownership of the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Tampa Bay Rays joined with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Tampa Bay Buccaneers this week to particpate in National Poll Worker Recruitment Day. Finding enough poll workers is tough enough every election cycle for many communities, but it’s an even more critical issue this year due to the pandemic. The Rowdies have set up a page on their website with detail on how to sign up to serve as a poll worker along with several other important resources ahead of Election Day on November 3. Additionally, the Rowdies and Rays have announced that Election Day will be a paid holiday for all of their employees. The deadline to register to vote for this year’s election is October 5 and the final day to request a Vote-By-Mail ballot is October 24.

Al Lang on the Agenda

The Rowdies and Al Lang are on the St. Petersburg City Council’s agenda this Thursday as they seek a one-year extension to their deal to manage the city-owned venue. If approved, the new deal would take effect on December 1. The Rowdies would then have until May 1 of next year to inform the city if they wish to seek a new deal of at least three years. Current ownership inherited the existing deal when it bought the team from Bill Edwards at the end of 2018. The short-term extension up for approval this week also makes one change to the previous deal. The Rowdies would now control the marquee sign outside of Al Lang, potentially opening up a new source of sponsorship revenuef or the club.

Rowdies Add Davey

The Rowdies have added another piece as they seek to round out their roster. Defender Alex Davey has joined the club with just a month left in the season after spending the last year and a half with Hartford Athletic FC. Davey played in 13 matches for Hartford last year and started three times for the club in July but has not appeared in a match since. The 6’3″ defender spent his youth career and the first few years of his professional career with Chlesea, who loaned him out to various clubs between 2013 and 2017.

Davey, 25, brings much needed depth to the back line after loanee Louis Lomas returned to Norwich City due to the pandemic. Equally as important to Collins is the competition he brings to squad.

“One of the things that caught up with us last year, particularly in the playoffs, was a lack of competition, especially at the wingbacks.” Collins said. “We’ve remedied that, but losing Louis has left a void. Max Lachowecki has done great, but Max might be needed at left wingabck if things went awry and then that leaves us short… Alex gives us the depth and now we’re ready to go give it our best shot between now and the end of the season. Everyone’s ready to go.”

Photo by Samantha Ponzillo Media

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