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FC Tampa Bay coach likes team's makeup

LARGO — When FC Tampa Bay announced the signing Monday of three more players — raising its number under contract to 19 — the personnel that will make up the club's opening-day roster became clearer.

Already beset by serious injuries to M Jeremy Christie (hip surgery) and D Yendry Diaz (torn ACL), the signings of D Omar Jarun, F Warren Ukah and F Matt Clare, who was a trial player, added to the team's experience and depth.

With two other trial players, M/D Shane Hill and M Tom Ahmed, still with the team, coach Ricky Hill seems satisfied to move on to the April 9 season opener against Montreal with the players he has.

"I look around and there's a lot of maturity here," Hill said. "There's a lot of experience in the numbers.

"As a coach, I want them to be able to manage on the field, make decisions for themselves, organize on the field when necessary and, above all, communicate on the field. With the people we have, I think that will be achievable."

Ukah, who adds attacking depth along with Clare, comes to Tampa Bay after spending the offseason playing indoors with MISL Baltimore. Jarun, 6 feet 5 and with good ball skills, brings experience to the back row. He most recently played in the Polish First League.

D J.P. Rodrigues, who has joined the team after playing with MISL Milwaukee, can play a variety of positions, including central defender and outside back.

"I don't expect them to jell overnight," Hill said, "but it's always good to get accustomed to your teammates as quickly as possible."

Clare impresses: Clare is the only trial player in camp to be offered a contract. With Aaron King the only striker remaining from last year's team, Clare knew he'd have the opportunity to earn a roster spot.

"He's very hungry to improve," Hill said. "I like his movement and his intensity, and he has a nose for the goal. He can attack the goal from both sides. He's always looking to get shots away, which for a striker is good. … He's definitely got the tools to work with and develop. We're very happy he's here."

Clare scored Tampa Bay's tying goal in the 86th minute of a 1-1 preseason tie against Sweden First Division club BK Hacken.

"The experience I've had has been great," Clare said. "Either way, making it or not, it still showed me where I stand as a player at this level. Walking into the office that day and them saying they wanted to offer me a contract was unbelievable."

Timing, connections right: Jarun said his time with his team in the Polish First Division, Pogon Szczecin, ended when he had a falling out with the coach. That left him with two options: playing on the reserve team there or coming to the United States.

When Tampa Bay assistant David Hayes heard Jarun was looking, he called the player who was his teammate with Atlanta in the USL First Division a few years ago.

"David's a great guy, and I know wherever he's going to go, it's going to be a professional organization," Jarun said.

"He told me what they were doing, what their plans were, and I thought it was a good fit for me."

KICKS IN THE GRASS: The uniform kits will be unveiled today. The road jersey will have a different look. … Tampa Bay is launching an advertising campaign that will include two 30-second commercials that will be seen on local TV. … The team will select a captain next week, and it's likely to be a newcomer. … Tampa Bay will hold its first practice at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg on April 7 but will continue to train regularly at Shimberg Park in Tampa.

FC Tampa Bay coach likes team's makeup 03/30/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 30, 2011 11:03pm]
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