Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

FC Tampa Bay sticks to philosophy entering franchise's first NASL playoff match

FC Tampa Bay coach Ricky Hill yells out in a match this season against Puerto Rico. “When we have the ball, we’re all attackers, and when we don’t have the ball, we’re all defenders,” he says of his flexible philosophy.

JAMES BORCHUCK | Times

FC Tampa Bay coach Ricky Hill yells out in a match this season against Puerto Rico. “When we have the ball, we’re all attackers, and when we don’t have the ball, we’re all defenders,” he says of his flexible philosophy.

ST. PETERSBURG — FC Tampa Bay coach Ricky Hill stands, arms crossed, in the sliver of shade provided by the Al Lang Field scoreboard.

As the team prepares for tonight's first playoff match in franchise history, Tampa Bay is practicing on the smaller left half of the outfield grass, focusing on direct, one-touch passes and moving the ball faster than the tightly compact defense can keep up.

It's a drill the team has repeated ad nauseam since the first days of training camp in late February. In those early stages, the ball was often misplayed, bouncing around pingpong-like with no real purpose.

The team's competency completing the drill has mirrored its midseason surge, resulting in a No. 3 seed for the North American Soccer League postseason and tonight's home knockout match against Minnesota.

As Hill watches, his soundtrack is at once encouraging and demanding.

"Yes, Jeff … Show for the ball, Yama … Find the open space … That's unlucky, Mike."

Hill's demeanor is familiar, too. Indeed, little has changed from those early-season training sessions, other than the aptitude of the team performing them.

"I think their understanding of the team principles of the game, I think more people understand that," Hill said. "…If you can control and pass and move quickly, you're going to create problems for any team. But everybody has to be reading off the same page."

The team that won nine of its last 16 regular-season matches will stay largely unchanged. The 4-4-2 setup remains but Hill isn't bound to a formation, saying: "When we have the ball, we're all attackers, and when we don't have the ball, we're all defenders."

Tonight's lineup will look much like last weekend against Fort Lauderdale with only a minor tweak or two. The team is playing at a high level, and Hill wants to avoid disrupting continuity.

That said, there is one major difference tonight. Win, or the season's over. Whichever team can remain calm under those circumstances will likely advance.

"Five games left. That's the motto for us right now," midfielder Pascal Millien said. "We just have to take each game like it's our last game."

News and notes: D Andres Arango suffered a mild concussion in practice and his availability is a game-time decision. … Miss Florida 2011 Kristina Janolo will sing the national anthem and sign autographs on the concourse from 6:45 to 7:15 p.m. … Donna Crawford, widow of slain St. Petersburg police officer David Crawford, will serve as Tampa Bay's honorary captain. … The Al Lang box office will open at 4 and gates will open at 6.

Tonight

NASL quarterfinals

FC Tampa Bay vs. Minnesota

When/where: 7:30 tonight; Al Lang Field

Records: Tampa Bay 11-9-8 (No. 3 seed); Minnesota 9-10-9 (No. 6 seed)

FC Tampa Bay sticks to philosophy entering franchise's first NASL playoff match 09/30/11 [Last modified: Friday, September 30, 2011 10:15pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Major-league bullpens get stretched as starters take a seat

    The Heater

    Mike Marshall led the majors in appearances in 1973, with 92 for the Montreal Expos. The next spring, having joined the Los Angeles Dodgers, Marshall met his new manager, Walter Alston.

  2. Bucs get first new video director in 29 years

    Blogs

    When the Bucs took to the practice field this week to start OTA practices, they did so with a new video director for the first time in 29 years.

    Bucs video director Dave Levy, shown during the 2003 season, worked under nine different head coaches in 29 seasons working for Tampa Bay.
  3. Rays set to activate Tommy Hunter from DL

    Blogs

    The Rays plan to activate RHP Tommy Hunter from the DL for Thursday's series finale against the Angels.

  4. Steven Souza Jr. snaps out of slump as Rays defeat Angels (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — After Tuesday's shutout loss to the Angels, Steven Souza Jr. stood in front of his locker and talked about his need to contribute to the offense.

    Tampa Bay Rays catcher Jesus Sucre (45) hugs right fielder Steven Souza Jr. (20) in the dugout after his two run home run in the second inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Angels at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, May 24, 2017.