The Tampa Bay Rowdies are poised to hold on to a significant chunk of the roster that helped the club claim the USL Championship Eastern Conference title in 2020. In addition to the list of nine players already confirmed by the Rowdies to return earlier this month, Unused Substitutes has learned the club has secured five more for another season in Tampa Bay.
Those five players are keepers Evan Louro and Ian McGrane, midfielder Leo Fernandes, defender/midfielder Max Lachowecki, and forward Lucky Mkosana.
That would bring the total number of returning players up to 14, which would be the most the Rowdies have retained in an offseason so far in the Neill Collins era. Holding on to more than half of your squad is rarer than you might think in lower division soccer, though it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that the Rowdies are doing so this year. The only other time the Rowdies retained 14 players in the modern era was after the 2012 Soccer Bowl championship season, so it tracks that Collins would want to maintain that level of continuity on the field after such a successful 2020 season.
Evan Louro, 24, came to the Rowdies last year after spending the previous three seasons at New York Red Bulls II. His first professional venture outside of the Red Bulls system went pretty well, as he finished tied for second most clean sheets in the league (8) while starting and playing every minute for the Rowdies. The stout defense in front of Louro meant he almost never had to face a barrage of shots from the opposition, but he still managed to make many crucial saves when called on to do so.
McGrane, 25, is still a bit of an unknown. He never saw the field in 2020, though he did make a few appearances on the bench as the backup option at keeper when Macklin Robinson was dealing with an injury. McGrane’s only professional appearances were with NISA’s Stumptown Athletic in 2019. His primary experience so far has been with NPSL sides SC United Bantams and AFC Ann Arbor.
A return for Fernandes means he remains the longest serving player on the Rowdies roster, having joined just a few months ahead of his close friend Sebastian Guenzatti in 2017. The duo are both within striking distance of reaching 100 matches played for the Rowdies next year as they both sit with 89 appearances. Despite being left out of the starting XI in a few matches in the final weeks of 2020, Fernandes had a tremendous season and even produced when called on from the bench. In total he bagged 5 goals and 3 assists this year.
Mkosana will stick with the Rowdies after proving to be a vital attacking option for Collins. The veteran striker missed over a month of action toward the end of the regular season due to a knock, but he more than made up for it with two important goals in the first two rounds of the postseason, including the deciding goal in the 1-0 win over the Chareleston Battery.
Lachowecki made his return to professional soccer in 2020 after taking the previous year off. His commitment to coming back stronger than before impressed Collins enough earn a contract and become a go-to choice on the rare occassion when he needed someone to fill in on the back line. Lachowecki also earned a couple starts out on the left wing, a decision that some questioned but ended up working out for the Rowdies in the end. Collins will take comfort in knowing he has a player with Lachowecki’s dedication and versatility in his back pocket again.
Confirmed to Return: Forrest Lasso, Jordan Scarlett, Aaron Guillen, Jordan Doherty, Lewis Hilton, Yann Ekra, Sebastian Dalgaard, Sebastian Guenzatti, Juan Tejada.
Rumored to Return: Evan Louro, Ian McGrane, Max Lachowecki, Leo Fernandes, Lucky Mkosana
Photo by Matt May/Tampa Bay Rowdies