The coach of the Tampa Bay Rowdies brought his soccer career to the United States four years ago, in part, to search for anonymity. And even now, he won't often be found off the soccer field or out of his bare-walled office or away from his television at home, where he meticulously breaks down video. He usually will only emerge into humanity to purchase some British tea at a specialty grocery store. But the success of the new Rowdies franchise hinges on the area quickly getting to know Paul Dalglish, recognizing his distinctive Scottish accent and falling in love with his unique style of soccer that is more South American branded than British.
The Rowdies (1-1-1) have played three regular-season games, but tonight's home opener against the Austin Aztex (3-1-0) at Steinbrenner Field is truly the beginning. And when Tampa Bay, a member of the 12-team U.S. Soccer Federation Division 2 league, pulls back the curtain on professional soccer, Dalglish, 33, will be the maestro.
"And if anything goes wrong," the first-time professional head coach said, "I'm the one to blame. … There are a million reasons, and there are no excuses."
As a player, Dalglish was a journeyman, playing with 11 teams in 11 years until finding a home in Major League Soccer with the Houston Dynamo, winning the MLS Cup in 2006. But Dalglish said he feels more at home in coaching.
"For me to play well, I had to really, really concentrate. I wasn't a natural player," Dalglish said. "As a coach, I feel more comfortable and a lot more confident in myself than I ever did as a player."
Rowdies president Andrew Nestor said he was quickly sold when he met Dalglish.
"We knew he had the right passion and personality for the job," Nestor said. "It takes a ton of energy to basically find 20 players starting from scratch. He had the drive to accomplish that."
Part of that reasoning likely has to do with Dalglish's lineage. His father, Kenny, was arguably the best player to don a Liverpool uniform and found more success as a manager with Liverpool.
"There are pros and cons," Dalglish said. "I would never change a thing about the way I grew up. But it all depends. Someone could want to buy you a drink, or they might want to punch you in the face."
The Dalglish name carries much weight in the United Kingdom, so Dalglish came to the United States to play for Houston and get out of his dad's shadow.
"America was somewhere I could be judged on what I did there and then instead of what my dad did in the past, because back home it didn't matter what I did, I was always going to be a failure playing," he said.
"The thing everyone said was, 'He's not bad, but he's not as good as his dad though.' But nobody who has played for Liverpool had been as good as my dad."
Now Dalglish has the opportunity to make a name for himself as a coach. He makes all soccer-related decisions. He often seeks advice from Nestor and technical director, and former Rowdies player, Perry Van Der Beck, but the final decisions are his.
"When I was growing up, the earliest memories are of my dad being a player, but the things I can vividly remember are going with my dad to work when he was a manager," Dalglish said. "I always found myself asking my dad why he made certain decisions after games. When I was younger and used to play video games, I'd play the video games where you were the manager rather than me controlling the players."
His style of play, a 4-3-2-1 formation with only one attacker, focuses on ball possession and quick, short passing along the width of the field, but it also holds an aggressive offensive flair that is popular in Brazil and Argentina.
"I think fans will like it, especially people who haven't watched soccer," said Rowdies forward Kwame "J.J." Adjeman-Pamboe, who was signed after impressing at a combine in Liverpool. "I think it's creative. You see passing. You see movement.
"Paul wants us to attack. That's what I like, playing in the other's team's half, creating a good environment for the fans to watch."
Dalglish recruited a group of young players, many with little professional league experience but ones that were well-rounded to attack, pass and defend from any position on the field.
"Everything he says, it works," midfielder Pascal Millien said. "If he was teaching me when I was 5, I'd be in the (English Premier League) right now."
Through their first three games, the Rowdies have dominated possession and pace, but they have scored just three goals.
"I'm very confident that once it clicks, we will create more goal-scoring opportunities than any team in the league," Dalglish said. "I think if you have time and the patience and you know what you're doing in the early stages, you can win games playing attractive soccer.
"And hopefully this weekend, it all clicks."