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FC Tampa Bay shows improved defense during preseason

LARGO — FC Tampa Bay concluded its six-game preseason schedule by winning 3-0 at USF on Sunday night.

The shutout was the fourth consecutive for Tampa Bay, which also beat Florida Gulf Coast 2-0, Central Florida 3-0 and Saint Leo 2-0.

In 2010, Tampa Bay allowed 46 goals in 30 games, fourth worst in the U.S. Soccer Federation Division 2. With a string of shutouts, might Tampa Bay be a more defensive-sided club?

"We have a number of experienced players at the back, a number of quality, experienced players," first-year coach Ricky Hill said. "It's okay having experience, but to have quality experience is even better."

Tampa Bay mostly used a combination of Frankie Sanfilippo, Andres Arango, J.P. Rodrigues, recent signee Omar Jarun and assistant coach David Hayes along its back line. Also, Takuya Yamada, who started 25 games in the midfield for Tampa Bay last season, moved back at times.

Plus, Hill is confident he has two of the better goalkeepers in the league in last year's starter, Daryl Sattler, and former USF standout Jeff Attinella.

"As it stands right now, I like the makeup and the characteristics of the defensive unit that we have," Hill said.

Striking ahead: Don't get the impression Tampa Bay will be content playing passive, defensive-minded soccer, though. Hill said the strength of the team is the number of creative players at its disposal.

"My philosophy has always been the best form of defense is to attack because if we've got the ball 90 yards from our goal, I don't think (the opponent's) going to score," Hill said.

Hill said he would rather see his side win a shootout than a defensive battle.

"There are times when we possibly will be looking to take the game to teams, particularly at home," he said. "The onus is on us to win games at home as often as we can. I would expect our team to go out initially from the get-go to go hard, to try to stamp our authority, impose our will on them, score as many goals as we can and make the latter stages of the game more comfortable for us."

Sanfilippo named captain: Sanfilippo served as captain during the preseason, and Hill expressed his desire to have the defender remain in that role.

Julian Valentin wore the captain's band last season. But he has hung up his cleats to become the Colorado Rockies' assistant editor of interactive marketing and publications.

Hill signs: The team signed trialist M Shane Hill, the son of the coach, on Wednesday. Shane Hill, 23, is the second trialist to be offered a contract, joining F Matt Clare.

Asked this week what it was like coaching his son and making a decision on his future, Ricky Hill said it was one of the toughest tasks he has faced as a coach.

"I know what he's capable of," Hill said. "But it's not entirely up to me. (Assistant coaches) Hayes and (Slobodan) Janjus will also have input on what we do with him."

Kicks in the grass: Today, Tampa Bay holds its only practice at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg before Saturday's 7 p.m. opener against Montreal. The session, from 10 a.m. to noon, is open to the public. … D Andres Arango must sit out the opener because of a red card he received during last season's playoffs while with Minnesota. He received a yellow card in the 37th minute and was sent off a minute later for violent conduct.

Times staff writer Eduardo A. Encina contributed to this report.

.Season opener

FC Tampa Bay

vs. Montreal

When/where: 7 p.m. Saturday; Al Lang Field, St. Petersburg

Tickets: fctampabay.com, (813) 287-1539

FC Tampa Bay shows improved defense during preseason 04/06/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 6, 2011 6:55pm]
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