Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Sports

Rowdies hope to dethrone league champion New York Cosmos in 2014

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.

Comments
Getting into baseballís Hall of Fame is hard. Voting isnít easy either.

Getting into baseballís Hall of Fame is hard. Voting isnít easy either.

First, let's make this clear:Voting for the Hall of Fame is truly a cool thing. An honor. A privilege. A labor of love, from putting an X next to names of obvious choices, such as Chipper Jones and Jim Thome, to spending hours of research and interna...
Updated: 5 minutes ago
HomeTeam 25: Boys basketball rankings for Tampa Bay

HomeTeam 25: Boys basketball rankings for Tampa Bay

1. St. Petersburg (13-2)This week: Tuesday vs. Seminole; Wednesday vs. Pinellas Park; Friday vs. LakewoodThe buzz: It's hard to knock the Green Devils out of the top spot after last weekend's performance against Oak Hill (Va.) Academy at the National...
Updated: 7 minutes ago
Jones: Tampa Bay needs a playoff push. Save us, Lightning

Jones: Tampa Bay needs a playoff push. Save us, Lightning

Stammer. Vasy. Kuuuuch.It's up to you guys now.Heddy. Johnnie. Coop.We need you now more than ever.A community turns its lonely eyes to you, Tampa Bay Lightning. Time to save us. You're all we have.The Rays? Pitchers and catchers and allegedly Matt D...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Go a step beyond basketball junkie, and thatís UTís Staja Tyghter

Go a step beyond basketball junkie, and thatís UTís Staja Tyghter

TAMPA ó Sheís the leading scorer and rebounder for the University of Tampaís womenís basketball team, so junior Staja Tyghter has clearly made an impact during her first season on UTís campus.It didnít happen by accident."Youíve heard of terms like Ď...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Chris Archer, Kevin Kiermaier among Rays slated to sign autographs at Fan Fest

Chris Archer, Kevin Kiermaier among Rays slated to sign autographs at Fan Fest

Six of the top Rays players will be signing autographs at the Feb. 10 Fan Fest for a $20 fee that goes to charity.Players slated to sign — and subject to change — are Chris Archer, Kevin Kiermaier, Jake Odorizzi, Wilson Ramos, M...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Athlon: Quinton Flowersí performance at UCF best of 2017

Athlon: Quinton Flowersí performance at UCF best of 2017

A month after his college career ended, Quinton Flowers remains the highlight reel that keeps on rolling.Athlon Sports has ranked Flowers' 605-yard effort at UCF as the best individual performance of the 2017 college season.Among the performances it ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
From the archives: A glimpse into a top prospect, Berkeley Prepís Nelson Agholor

From the archives: A glimpse into a top prospect, Berkeley Prepís Nelson Agholor

Editor's note: This story originally published on Jan. 22, 2012. Since Berkeley Prep alumnus Nelson Agholor is set to play in this year's Super Bowl with the Philadelphia Eagles, we thought our readers might enjoy a blast from the past. A glori...
Updated: 3 hours ago
ESPNís prospect list has four Rays in top 34, led by Brent Honeywell and Willy Adames

ESPNís prospect list has four Rays in top 34, led by Brent Honeywell and Willy Adames

Four Rays ranked in the top 34 spots in prospect rankings compiled by ESPN's Keith Law.RHP Brent Honeywell, a 2014 draftee, was slated 15th and SS Willy Adames, acquired from Detroit in the 2014 trade of David Price, was 20th.1B/LHP Brendan McKay, th...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Rick and Tom podcast: Paying homage to Brady and Belichick

Rick and Tom podcast: Paying homage to Brady and Belichick

In their latest podcast, Rick Stroud and Tom Jones examine the wonder that is Tom Brady and Bill Belichick as the pair head to their eighth Super Bowl together and have cemented themselves as the greatest coach-QB duo in NFL history.The guys discuss ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Andrei Vasilevskiy returns to MVP form for Lightning

Andrei Vasilevskiy returns to MVP form for Lightning

Nobody in the Lightning dressing room was worried about goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.Sure, Vasilevskiy had allowed 23 goals in his last five starts, with just one win. It was his first tough stretch in his first full season as No. 1, even though it ...
Updated: 6 hours ago