TAMPA — When FC Tampa Bay takes the field Saturday at North American Soccer League-leading Carolina, the team will try to accomplish something it has yet to do in three tries: Win on the road.
Not that Tampa Bay hasn't threatened to pick up the full share of three points away from Al Lang Field. In fact, coach Ricky Hill insists the team's best effort this season, home or away, came in a scoreless draw at Montreal on April 23.
"As a team, we looked very solid, very compact, very organized," Hill said of that third game of the season. "We looked like a very effective, efficient team. I haven't seen that since."
On its last road trip, Tampa Bay tied Minnesota before suffering its worst defeat, 4-0 at Edmonton. Tampa Bay is 0-1-2 away from home.
Tampa Bay has two opportunities coming up to pick up that first road victory. After Saturday's Carolina game, the team travels to Fort Lauderdale on June 29 to make up a game that was rained out.
And Tampa Bay is as healthy as it has been in recent weeks. Midfielder Chad Burt (right foot) has been involved more at practice this week and hasn't been ruled out for Saturday's game. Defender J.P. Rodrigues (right knee) is targeting a return against Fort Lauderdale. The only other notable injury is to Takuya Yamada (groin), and his status for Saturday is unknown.
Kickin' it with | GK Evan Newton
Newton, a 23-year-old native of Virginia Beach, joined Tampa Bay on loan from MLS' Houston Dynamo on May 5.
Having grown up around the beach, you're kind of in your element here in Tampa, aren't you?
Houston's great. I love it there. It'll be nice to go back. But, first impression, it feels more homey here. It's a beach environment. It's a little bit more like home. It's nice.
As a player on loan, do you feel almost in limbo between Tampa Bay and Houston?
It's been a tough year, to be honest, so far. You're just coming into an MLS team and you're working hard and you're not getting a lot of time to show yourself. But you just keep working. Here, it's an opportunity, but you've still got to wait it out because they have Jeff (Attinella), who they need to give some time to for the organization to build. You work hard and you try to prove yourself every day, and hopefully when your time comes you're ready to show yourself.
Name one thing on your bucket list.
When I'm done playing soccer, which, God willing, is a long time from now, I want to try out for the Washington Redskins as a kicker, see if I can make it. I've kicked field goals for fun. I think with a little bit of practice I can be good. It hasn't been too hard when I've done it.
Out of the box
Tampa Bay defender Omar Jarun will be absent for nearly three weeks as he looks to help the Palestinian national team qualify for the World Cup.
Jarun, who says he is fully healthy from a knee injury that sidelined him recently, flies to Jordan on Friday to start training. The Palestinian national team plays Afghanistan in Tajikistan on June 29 before hosting Afghanistan on July 3. The winner of the home-and-away series will play Thailand at the end of July.
Jarun will return to Tampa Bay on July 4 but likely won't be available for the team's rivalry match vs. Fort Lauderdale at Al Lang Field. That means Jarun, who hasn't played since a 3-0 victory over Montreal on May 21, will be out at least three more games.
Tampa Bay forward Mike Ambersley was tabbed by the NASL as Offensive Player of the Week after scoring two goals against Atlanta on Sunday. Tampa Bay's leading goal scorer has three in his past two games and is tied for second in the NASL with five.
Bolton tickets on sale
Tickets for FC Tampa Bay's international friendly against Bolton will go on sale at 9 a.m. Friday. Call (813) 287-1539 or visit fctampabay.com. The game is set for 7:30 p.m. July 14 at Al Lang Field.