With 10 games left in the regular season, FC Tampa Bay has to like where it sits in the NASL standings considering its early-season injuries and onfield inconsistency. FC Tampa Bay (6-6-6, 24 points) heads into Saturday's game at last-place Atlanta in fifth place with four home games and six road games remaining. Six teams make the playoffs. Tampa Bay has been one of the league's top teams the past two months, going 4-2-2 in league play since a 2-1 loss to first-place Carolina on June 4. That doesn't include a 1-0 friendly win over the English Premier League's Bolton.
The club owns four wins and five ties against its remaining opponents, including three games (two at home) against Minnesota, which is in a tie for third with Edmonton (25 points).
"We're fighting for second place because second place gets a bye," FC Tampa Bay assistant coach and defender David Hayes said. "… We lost to Atlanta the other day when we could have scored six or seven but we lost 2-1. We're on a hot streak. I think at any moment any team can beat anyone. (Atlanta) is a must-win for us all across the board because we've thrown away too many games at home and we're on the road a lot from here on out."
Take into account 20 players have started as least two games for the club, with 14 lineups in 18 games, and it's obvious FC Tampa Bay's biggest battle was finding a regular lineup.
Sanfilippo cleared to practice
Team captain and defender Frankie Sanfilippo, who was hospitalized for dehydration symptoms 10 days ago, was slated to return to practice Wednesday.
"My lower body, it basically just felt like someone had shot me," said Sanfilippo, who played every minute of FC Tampa Bay's first 16 games. "I couldn't walk. I was freaking out because I had never felt anything like that in my life.
"It was a wakeup call for me. I definitely need to take care of myself better. I haven't sat out any games and I've been going nonstop so I have to realize my restrictions with this heat."
Sanfilippo said he hopes to start Saturday.
Midfielder Jeremy Christie, who has missed the season recovering from offseason hip surgery, is eyeing a return Aug. 20 against Puerto Rico.
"I feel good; my fitness has a little ways to go," Christie said after Tuesday's practice, his second full session back. "For it only being the second day after having six months off, I feel pretty good. There's no pain so that's the biggest thing."
Kickin' it with | D J.P. Rodrigues
The Land O'Lakes product talks about his soccer career, playing close to home and rooting for the Mutiny.
Growing up and going to Land O'Lakes, what did you want to be when you were in high school?
Soccer was always one of the main things I loved from my dad being from South America. I always wanted to play professionally. But I actually went to school to be an accountant. I liked math in high school, but when I got into it, I realized I loved soccer too much and I did not want to sit behind a desk. I pushed a lot harder to make it this far.
Being a local guy, does it mean more to be able to play professionally here?
It means everything. It's a dream come true. I grew up going to Mutiny games and Tampa Bay Terror indoor games. I would always say I wanted to play for the Mutiny one day, and as soon as Tampa Bay came back, it was my first goal to get back here.
You won an MISL indoor league title playing for the Milwaukee Wave this year. What was that like?
The fans there are amazing. Everybody knows about the Wave. It's a big deal out there. We didn't even win it at home, but we had fans flying from Milwaukee to Baltimore to watch the game. It was crazy. They love their indoor soccer there. You go to any restaurant downtown and they know who you are. I would be at a Brewers game and kids would be coming down to you.
If you weren't a soccer player, what would you be doing?
I coach now. I think I'd like to get into coaching at the collegiate level. Maybe if I'm good with my finances, I'll open up a restaurant one day.