TAMPA — In preparing for their expansion season, the Rowdies hired Paul Dalglish to be the face of the franchise. The Scottish-born first-year pro coach wore many hats away from the X's and O's, including scout and fan ambassador.
But his tenure as coach lasted less than one season as Dalglish and the Rowdies agreed to "part ways" effective immediately, the team announced Thursday.
Tampa Bay's second-half struggles bottomed out Sunday, when a 3-0 loss at Montreal ended its postseason hopes. And on the eve of tonight's second-to-last regular-season game, its coach was shown the door.
Technical director Perry Van Der Beck, an original Rowdies player, will serve as interim coach.
The Rowdies (6-11-11) opened the USSF Division 2 season 5-1-3 but has won just one game since. Injuries to key players forced several young players into action. Management made the midseason acquisitions of veteran midfielders Jonny Steele and Ricardo Sanchez, but the Rowdies are 0-4-6 in their past 10 games.
"I think we have the players and resources we needed to build a successful club," Rowdies owner Andrew Nestor said. "I believe making the playoffs this year was a reasonable goal."
The son of legendary Liverpool player and coach Kenny Dalglish, Paul Dalglish said it was his calling to be a coach. A member of championship teams with MLS's Houston Dynamo in 2006 and 2007, Dalglish embraced the history and adoration for the original Rowdies franchise. And he remained positive throughout the new version's second-half slide.
Nestor said the parting was mutual, but Dalglish appeared to be blindsided.
A day before his departure, he said he was excited about being a part of the Rowdies' future.
"It's been a massive learning curve, especially for me," the 33-year-old said Wednesday. "I'm a young coach. I've learned a lot about myself and this league this year. The younger players are going to be better next year.
"We've also had a whole season to learn the league and to learn the players within the league. We know exactly what is needed to win in this league."
Dalglish didn't return calls Thursday but acknowledged his departure on his Twitter page, saying: "Don't really want to say too much at the moment, but I would like to thank all the players for their tremendous efforts this season. … Things never worked out, but I believe I have left the next coach that comes in a solid foundation to build on to become a great team that the Rowdies tradition deserves."
Players were flummoxed when the move was announced at an impromptu team meeting Thursday afternoon.
"We were definitely a little surprised," captain and defender Julian Valentin said. "I've been through coaching changes before, and it's the nature of the business. We were Paul's players. He brought us in.
"So from a personal standpoint, I think of what I could have done to make it better. But the organization made a decision it believed had to be done, I guess."
Eduardo A. Encina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.