ST. PETERSBURG — With a week off until a May 18 game at Minnesota United FC, the Rowdies hope a string of injuries that have hampered the team during the first half of the NASL spring season will heal.
Most notably absent is F Mike Ambersley, who has been, arguably, the team's most consistent performer the past two years. He has not played this season because of a sprained MCL in his knee.
In 2011, Ambersley led Tampa Bay in goals (11) and assists (seven), and last year was tops on the team in assists (nine) and second in goals (eight).
"It's a new thing for me to be up in the press box, watching games," Ambersley said. "I don't want to get comfortable up there, that's for sure. It's hard for me, but at the same time I still have to be positive and help the guys in the locker room as much as I can and tell them what I see from up there."
On Wednesday — the team's first day back in training after a 1-1 draw against Edmonton on Saturday — Ambersley was back on the practice field in a limited capacity, taking part in keep-away drills and serving as a neutral player during scrimmage work. The challenge for the 30-year-old St. Louis native during the next few weeks is to become more active in practice while not pushing too hard.
"This is the best I've felt in a while, so I want to get back out there and play but at the same time I've got to be smart about it," he said. "The hardest thing as an athlete is to not overdo things."
Ambersley is targeting a home match against Minnesota on May 25 for his return.
U.S. OPEN CUP: The Rowdies face the winner between VSI Tampa Bay (USL PRO) and Orlando City Under-23s (PDL) to open play in the 100th annual Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The Rowdies will be on the road for their first game, the second round of the knockout tournament.
In last year's competition, the Rowdies defeated Jacksonville United (NPSL) 3-0 in the second round, then fell to MLS's Colorado Rapids 3-1 a week later.
JEFF ATTINELLA SIGHTING: Former Tampa Bay goalkeeper Jeff Attinella, a Clearwater native who played every minute for the team during its run to the 2012 NASL championship and signed with MLS's Real Salt Lake during the offseason, will soon return to Florida but not in a Rowdies uniform. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Attinella has been loaned to the Rowdies' NASL rival, the Fort Lauderdale Strikers.
The Strikers need a goalie because Cody Laurendi is out for the season with a lacerated kidney sustained April 27 in a collision with Rowdies F Georgi Hristov.
Attinella was third on Real Salt Lake's depth chart. He had yet to see any game action for the Claret-and-Cobalt but made two substitute appearances for Salt Lake's reserve team.