Friday, December 15, 2017
Sports

Collapse prompts changes for Rowdies

TAMPA — Having time to dissect Saturday's second-half meltdown, in which a 3-1 lead turned into a 4-3 loss to Atlanta, Rowdies coach Ricky Hill pointed to myriad factors.

Chief among them: failing to retain possession in advanced areas, confusion among the defenders and goalkeeper errors.

The absence of two cogs didn't help. Andres Arango couldn't play left back because of a strained hamstring, and M Stuart Campbell was absent due to a calf injury.

Arango is questionable for Saturday at Fort Lauderdale. To prepare for his potential absence, the Rowdies experimented during practice this week by moving D Takuya Yamada to left back and inserting D Daniel Scott into the starting lineup at central defender. That returned M Raphael Cox, who played left back against Atlanta, to his more familiar role as attacking midfielder.

Campbell will definitely miss Saturday's match. He's not on crutches anymore but remains a couple of weeks away from practicing.

As for G Andrew Fontein, after two above-average performances to start the season, the 23-year-old rookie showed his youth Saturday. Bad decisions led to two goals.

Asked if G Diego Restrepo might start against Fort Lauderdale, Hill said, "There's a chance, yes; without a doubt."

More injuries: Hill is optimistic that barring any setback, F Carl Cort (slight calf tear) will be available for the next home game, May 4 against Edmonton. The London native has been a limited participant at practice this week, and Hill hopes he can return full-time next week.

Hill said there's only a "20 percent chance, if that" F Mike Ambersley (sprained MCL) will return to face Edmonton.

Home sweet home: Saturday's loss ended the Rowdies' 13-game home unbeaten streak (regular season and postseason) dating to a 2-1 loss to San Antonio on May 12. In between, they went 6-0-7.

Crossbar challenge: One of the more unique aspects of Rowdies practice is the competition at the end known as the crossbar challenge. The objective is to hit the crossbar from midfield.

The last player to do so must buy Gatorade for his teammates. It's a game Hill played during his days with England's Luton Town and the English national team.

"(Former England manager) Bobby Robson once said, 'Fellas, you know Jack Nicklaus, 80 yards away, puts it on the green; 120 yards away, puts it on the green. That's his club, so your feet for us are our clubs. And you should have every tool in that club of yours,' " Hill said. "That was how we were brought up. You had to be able to do things like that automatically."

Hill said the wager in his day was a Lucozade, a sports drink similar to Gatorade and popular in England.

How good was Hill?

"I used to get a free drink every day," Hill said; "never had to pay."

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