What? It’s been ten years already? That’s right.
We’ve seen the Tampa Bay Rowdies lift a championship trophy, but also change leagues almost as many times as they’ve changed owners. Many players have also come and gone in the last decade. Not just wonderfully skilled players, but also ones with character and integrity that make you proud to support the club.
So how do decide to honor these players? The only natural way. By pitting them against each other, ranking them, and whittling the list down until we get down to our Best XI of the decade list. The entire Unused Substitutes staff will be weighing in throughout the week. Each day we’ll focus on one area of the field, starting today with keepers.
Let’s get into it.
Matt Pickens: I spent a lot of time debating between Pickens and Jeff Attinella. Between the two keepers, J-E-F-F JEFF JEFF JEFF obviously has the biggest highlight from the seconnd leg of the 2012 Soccer Bowl, but the fact that Pickens did it so consistently 107 times gives him the edge.
Jeff Attinella: It was close. Attinella barely edged out Matt Pickens by virtue of being part of the 2012 championship squad. Attinella was an excellent shot-stopper who has gone on to have an excellent MLS career.
Jeff Attinella: You have to draw a line between the best athletes this club has, and the team that won the Championship.
I didn’t draw that line very accurately.
Hey, I’m willing to admit my mistakes. But in the case of this “Decade Best XI,” I leaned heavily on the teams from 2012 and 2013. I tend to believe they were the best years of this decade. Trophies mean something and I certainly allowed that to sway my thinking.
With goalkeepers, I could not resist Attinella. Was he ultimately the best shot-stopper? No. However, saving penalties in a championship game the way Attinella did practically makes him a shoe-in for this kind of recognition. And since leaving the Rowdies his skill has been recognized in MLS, where he has spent a good number of years.
Jeff Attinella: We’ve been blessed as supporters with some outstanding keepers over the last ten seasons. Still, the starting spot on this Best XI likely comes down to Attinella and Matt Pickens for most for obvious reasons. Diego Restrepo, though, is also worth a major shoutout in this discussion. While Attinella’s name is forever in the hearts and minds of Rowdies fans because of his multiple penalty stops that literally secured the Soccer Bowl win, Restrepo has the other most noteworthy moment for a keeper in the modern era. His penalty save against Obafemi Martins allowed the Rowdies to ride out a narrow victory against the Seattle Sounders in the U.S. Open Cup. Restrepo is also an skilled keeper, as evidence by his many stops post Tampa Bay.
Restrepo’s clutch save, though, is not enough to past the continuity Pickens brought week in, week out for four seasons. Apart from his talents in net, Pickens’ most valuable asset might have been his leadership in the back to keep things in check when they started falling apart.
All that said some accomplishments are to grand to ignore. Attinella’s performance in the Soccer Bowl is the stuff of legends. It doesn’t hurt that he was also a great keeper outside of that one game and is a hometown guy.
Check back tomorrow to see which defenders our staff selects for their Bext XIs. And be sure to let us know what you think of our choices for keeper.