Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Rowdies hope to dethrone league champion New York Cosmos in 2014

Clearwater native Brian Shriver practices with the Rowdies Friday at Al Lang Field.


Clearwater native Brian Shriver practices with the Rowdies Friday at Al Lang Field.

ST. PETERSBURG — With a new principal owner in St. Petersburg businessman Bill Edwards, new players boasting considerable high-level experience and versatility, and new midfield seats providing premium views of the pitch and waterfront, perhaps no season opener since the reintroduction of the Tampa Bay Rowdies in 2010 has been as highly anticipated. They kick off the season Saturday against FC Edmonton at Al Lang Stadium. Three major story lines emerged during the offseason that will figure prominently in the Rowdies' attempts to dethrone 2013 league champion New York Cosmos at the top of the North American Soccer League.

Local star comes home

After inking 2013 NASL Golden Ball (league MVP) winner Georgi Hristov to a four-year contract in the offseason, the Rowdies added to an already potent lineup by signing Clearwater native Brian Shriver.

Shriver, a forward who was on the field at Al Lang for last season's opener — with Carolina — scored 15 goals for the RailHawks in 2013 to capture the league's Golden Boot (most goals) award. Combining up top with Hristov and one of a number of options between Carl Cort, Lucky Mkosana and Casey Townsend for the third forward spot in coach Ricky Hill's preferred 4-3-3 formation, Shriver heads an attack that, on paper, should score more goals than any other team in the league.

"We have so many guys the team brought in that can contribute offensively," said Shriver, 26. "But, ultimately, we still have to go out and score goals."

Restrepo a no go

Venezuelan-born goalkeeper Diego Restrepo, who started 2013 as a backup, won the starter's jersey by Game 4 and was arguably the best keeper in the NASL by season's end, is wearing a boot on his left leg after tearing his Achilles tendon in the second week of preseason camp.

While Restrepo begins the rehab process in hopes of a return for the fall season, the Rowdies made a few moves to shore up the position, signing trialist Cody Mizell, Jamaican national Ryan Thompson and former Colorado Rapids standout Matt Pickens, the Rapids' record holder for most games in goal (116) and wins (41) in franchise history. The 32-year-old Pickens is the projected starter.

"Matt's experience is something that we hope throughout the course of his time here at the club will play great benefit to us defensively," Hill said.

Getting defensive

The downfall of the 2013 Rowdies was a porous back line that allowed a league-high 27 goals in 14 fall season matches and put Restrepo under a constant barrage of shots and one-on-one breakaways.

While the defense remains largely intact from a year ago, a couple new additions, including a familiar face, have the Rowdies hoping the problem has been rectified.

For the first time since, well, ever, the Rowdies will have a true left-footed left back in Blake Wagner, who spent four seasons with MLS' FC Dallas and the past two with the NASL's San Antonio Scorpions.

Anthony Wallace, a midfielder previously with the Colorado Rapids, can also fill in at left back if needed. Returning in 2014 is Tampa native and Land O'Lakes High product J.P. Rodrigues, who played for the Rowdies in 2011 and during the team's NASL championship run in 2012, pairing with Takuya Yamada for 25 of 32 league games in central defense that season.

"Whilst he's been back, you realize how much you missed him last year," Hill said. "He's got that will to win, that desire to never get beat. I think that can be infectious."

Rodrigues joins recently-signed trialist Willie Hunt and a group of holdovers that include four-year captain Frankie Sanfilippo, 39-year-old Japanese international Yamada, 2013 part-time starter Jay Needham and right back candidate Jordan Gafa.


No Player Pos. State/Country

4 Kyle Clinton MF Florida (Safety Harbor)

25 Carl Cort F England

9 Devin Del Do F California

20 Evans Frimpong MF Ghana

14 Jordan Gafa D California

11 Shane Hill MF England

10 Georgi Hristov F Bulgaria

3 Willie Hunt D South Carolina

86 Christophe Lallet MF Sweden

1 Cody Mizell GK Georgia

17 Lucky Mkosana F Zimbabwe

33 Jay Needham D Texas

18 Matt Pickens GK Missouri

24 Diego Restrepo GK Venezuela

5 J.P. Rodrigues D Florida (Land O'Lakes)

8 Darel Russell MF England

7 Frankie Sanfilippo D California

22 Keith Savage MF Florida (Gulf Breeze)

21 Brian Shriver F Florida (Clearwater)

99 Ryan Thompson GK Jamaica

19 Blake Wagner D Florida (Tampa)

16 Amani Walker F California

13 Anthony Wallace MF New York

32 Takuya Yamada D Japan


04/12 vs. FC Edmonton, 7:30

04/19 at Indy, 7:30

04/26 vs. Atlanta, 7:30

05/03 at San Antonio, 8:30

05/10 at Ottawa, 7

05/17 vs. New York, 7:30

05/24 vs. Fort Lauderdale, 7:30

05/31 at Carolina, 7:30

06/07 vs. Minnesota, 7:30

07/12 vs. Atlanta, 7:30

07/19 at Indy, 7:30

07/26 vs. San Antonio, 7:30

08/02 at Fort Lauderdale, 7:30

08/09 at Carolina, 7:30

08/16 vs. New York, 7:30

08/23 vs. Carolina, 7:30

08/30 at Ottawa, 7

09/06 at Minnesota, 8

09/13 vs. Ottawa, 7:30

09/21 at FC Edmonton, 4

09/27 vs. Fort Lauderdale, 7:30

10/04 vs. FC Edmonton, 7:30

10/11 at San Antonio, 8:30

10/15 vs. Minnesota, 7:30

10/18 at Atlanta, 7

10/25 at New York, 7

11/01 vs. Indy, 7:30


Ticket info: Purchase at Al Lang, call 1-877-Rowdies or go online at

Rowdies hope to dethrone league champion New York Cosmos in 2014 04/11/14 [Last modified: Friday, April 11, 2014 3:45pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Buccaneers defense was among NFL's best when its pressure got to the QB


    It doesn't matter how many times they've thrown a football. It doesn't matter how many seasons they've played. It doesn't matter whether they have a degree from Harvard or Central Florida.

    Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy recorded 6.5 sacks last season, but many of his other contributions didn't show up in the box scores. [ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times]

  2. Rays DFA Danny Farquhar to make room for Brad Boxberger


    The Rays continued shuffling their bullpen, dumping RHP Danny Farquhar after Wednesday's game to make room for RHP Brad Boxberger to be activated off the DL.

    Farquhar, who worked an inning in Wednesday's 6-2 loss, had a 2-2, 4.11 record for 37 appearances, working primarily in lower leverage situations. In …

  3. USF to face Indiana in men's basketball next season


    The USF men's basketball team will get an early test from a Big Ten powerhouse next season.

  4. Rays employee helps save suicidal woman near Pirates stadium


    A Rays front-office employee joined umpire John Tumpane in saving a woman threatening to jump from a bridge near PNC Park on Wednesday afternoon in Pittsburgh.

    Multimedia production manager Mike Weinman, 32, was walking across the Roberto Clemente Bridge with Rays broadcasting director Larry McCabe when he …

  5. Blake Snell struggles in return as Rays fall to Pirates

    The Heater


    Blake Snell talked a good game ahead of his return to the Rays rotation Wednesday night, but he didn't pitch one.

    The Pirates’ David Freese scores on a Blake Snell wild pitch during the first inning against the Rays.