I do not follow the Tampa Bay Rowdies day-to-day! Rodney Page from the Tampa Bay Times does, however. I asked Rodney for some insight on one of the elder statesclubs of professional soccer in the U.S.
For Club and Country: The Rowdies are undefeated at this point, but are drawing more often than they’re winning. Is there cause for concern, or will they be able to ride a strong defense the whole season?
Rodney Page: There is probably cause for concern in the locker room, but publicly the Rowdies can say they are unbeaten in the first nine games. No other team in the Eastern Conference can say that. This is a team that is managed by a former defender, Neill Collins. This team was almost completely rebuilt after last season and so far it is clear that it was built from the back up. Only two players, midfielder Leo Fernandes and forward Sebastian Guenzatti, were on this team last year. The offense has had two four-goal games thus far, so they can get hot. Consistency has been a problem, but the defense has bailed them out. I think most coaches would take a solid defense over anything else, and right now that’s what the Rowdies have.
FCAC: Former NSC striker Brandon Allen is now with the Rowdies. How is he fitting in with the team, and what has his season been like so far?
RP: Honestly, I’m sure you know Brandon better than I do. He has been given a chance to earn a spot up front, but it looks like the reviews are mixed. He’s played in six matches and started three. He has one goal so far, which may not be quite what the Rowdies were expecting. He did not play in the previous game but did get 80 minutes in the 1-1 draw to Charlotte. Forward Jaime Siaj is out tonight with a quad strain, so that could mean Allen gets minutes vs. his old squad.
FCAC: Who are the stars Nashville SC fans should keep an eye on tonight?
RP: One player to keep an eye on is Juan Tejada. He is 22 years old and a former college player at Eckerd College, which is only about three miles from the Rowdies home in St. Petersburg. He basically tried out for the team in December and ended up starting the first match. He has since played in all nine matches. He only has one goal, but he is a pesky player the opponents’ fans love to hate but the home town crowd loves him. Goakeeper John McCarthy has been very good so far. He played with the Philadelphia Union in MLS and he made a big save in the last match to preserve a 0-0 tie.
FCAC: Tampa has traditionally been a very good home team but an iffy side on the road. Is that the case again this year? How are they expected to handle playing at First Tennessee Park?
RP: They have actually been better on the road. Kinda weird. Al Lang Stadium tends to become a home field advantage once we hit June and it is stiflingly hot. I don’t think this young team will be intimidated by Nashville.
FCAC: What’s your game prediction?
RP: Game prediction: The Rowdies have had a full week’s rest. That being said, it’s hard to stay unbeaten in any professional soccer league. This could be the match were a lack of offense hurts them. I’ll say 2-1 Nashville.
Many tanks to Rodney for taking the time to chat about the Rowdies. Follow him on Twitter @RodneyHomeTeam and check out his work in the Tampa Bay Times.