The vibe around the Shimberg Complex, the training home for FC Tampa Bay, has been decidedly more positive in recent weeks. And not just because Tampa Bay is unbeaten in its past five games and on a two-match winning streak. For the first time since the start of the season, the team is close to full strength. Midfielder Chad Burt (right foot) said he's close to match ready and hopes to be available Wednesday when Tampa Bay hosts FC Edmonton at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg.
Takuya Yamada (groin) was used as a second-half substitute in the team's road victory over Edmonton and hasn't been limited in practice this week. Fellow Japanese midfielder Tsuyoshi Yoshitake (hamstring) isn't practicing with the team yet but is day-to-day.
Even midfielder Jeremy Christie looks to get back in the fold soon. The New Zealand national team player said he is targeting a full return in a couple of weeks.
"I think early on in the season, we had so many injuries, so many lineup changes that we didn't really have an identity and we struggled," said assistant coach David Hayes, who took over as head coach Sunday at Edmonton and will do so again Saturday at Atlanta while Ricky Hill is away due to the death of a family member. "Now that we're starting to get in a rhythm, we're starting to get guys back and healthy and get a consistent lineup and understanding of each other, it's starting to come together."
On Saturday, Tampa Bay plays Atlanta, which has won just twice this season. Tampa Bay tied the Silverbacks 1-1 in April and won 3-2 in June.
"Every point from here on out is going to be crucial," Hayes said. "I've been in the league long enough to know that one point makes a big difference."
Tampa Bay is fifth in the NASL standings with 21 points but just five points behind second-place Puerto Rico.
Kickin' it with | MF/D Justin Morrow
Morrow joined Tampa Bay on loan from the MLS's San Jose Earthquakes on July 14 and has appeared in two games (he also came to Tampa Bay last season on loan). The 23-year-old will rejoin San Jose after Saturday's game at Atlanta.
How does this year's Tampa Bay squad compare to last year's?
In just the short period of time I've been here, I can tell there's a huge difference. About half the guys are the same. In just the two games I've played, I've seen a difference in the style that they play, and I think it's an improvement for sure.
What are the differences between training in Tampa Bay and San Jose?
You've got to take care of your body (in Tampa Bay), always hydrating a lot more, especially when you're in Florida in the middle of the summer. It's so hot. You sweat out pounds of water here.
What did you think of the Lebron James decision? (Morrow is from Cleveland and lists the Cavaliers as his favorite sports team)
I was fine with him leaving, I just thought the way that he did it was disappointing. … I don't know how welcome he is there, but he did great things for the city.
Arango recognized by NASL
Tampa Bay's Andres Arango was named defender of the week by the NASL. Arango, left, is the fifth Tampa Bay player to win one of the league's weekly awards and the third defender, joining goalkeepers Daryl Sattler and Jeff Attinella.