Sunday, February 18, 2018
Sports

Rowdies' Frimpong happy to be a 'pest'

ST. PETERSBURG — Ask for a word to describe Rowdies midfielder Evans Frimpong and the answer most commonly given?

Pest.

On the soccer pitch, though, pest is a positive.

For 90-plus minutes during any given game, Frimpong is a constantly moving blur, chasing the ball with the energy level of a 2-year-old on a sugar high.

When Tampa Bay turns the ball over, Frimpong is there to try to win it back. Any loose touch from the opposition in his vicinity is quickly snatched up by the 24-year-old from Ghana.

"I can chase for a full 90 and not have any problems," Frimpong said. "That's the role I'm supposed to play: chase, get the ball and make plays. The more pressure we put on the other team, the more chances we get. It makes me feel happy doing that."

In last Saturday's 7-4 turnaround victory at San Antonio to begin the NASL fall season, Frimpong was at his best.

With Tampa Bay trailing 3-0 after 18 minutes, Frimpong got behind the Scorpions defense near the goal line and sent a left-footed cross across the box to a wide-open Luke Mulholland for the Rowdies' first goal.

In the 42nd minute, Frimpong collected a pass in the middle of the field from Keith Savage, took one touch while sprinting at full speed and rocketed a shot with his right foot into the goal from 25 yards to level the score.

A part-time starter during the spring, Frimpong is looking to become a regular over the second half of the season. Games like last weekend will keep him in the lineup.

"No one can fault his work rate, his effort, his endeavor or his heart, but sometimes he just needs to relax," Rowdies coach Ricky Hill said. "What I'm looking at from him is at that showtime moment, he executes cleanly at the right time."

Start over: One area Hill will pay particularly close attention to in tonight's fall home opener is how his team plays at the beginning of the game.

Never mind the Rowdies allowed three goals in the first 18 minutes against San Antonio, Hill was most discouraged that the team got away from its game plan, which has remained the same during his three-year tenure in Tampa Bay.

In the early stages, Hill wants the Rowdies to play the ball directly to the forwards, chase it and keep the ball in the opposition's half of the field. Against San Antonio, the Rowdies tried to play through the midfield too much, allowing the Scorpions to create turnovers and breakaway scoring opportunities.

"It's a trend that I've seen creep gradually into us," Hill said. "Yes, we've turned it around and won games, but it's not good enough. It's alarming because our execution in the final third couldn't have been better.

"That's the best it's been since I've been here, in terms of the clinical manner in how we executed those goals. But it's no good if we're going to have to score four every week."

Walker lost for season: F Amani Walker will miss the rest of the season after tearing the ACL in his left knee against San Antonio. He felt a pop in the knee during the second half but was still able to perform.

"We didn't envisage it would be the extent that it is in terms of the total ACL," Hill said. "It's an injury that takes seven to 12 months to recover from."

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