Sunday, April 22, 2018
Sports

Rowdies' mistakes irritate coach Ricky Hill

TAMPA — The Rowdies have allowed just two goals in their past three games, but coach Ricky Hill remains dissatisfied with defensive lapses that have resulted in goals.

In particular, Edmonton's first-half stoppage time equalizer Saturday was an attack that should have been cleared before reaching the foot of Chris Nurse, who cracked a perfectly placed shot past Diego Restrepo from the 18. The hiccup marred an otherwise outstanding performance by the back line and left the Rowdies with again a draw at home, 1-1, instead of a win and three points.

"It's a very cheap goal," Hill said. "We very rarely are given a goal from any team, so I don't want us to gift any team those types, too. We had two, three people who could have dealt with it at any given time, and we hesitated, expecting someone else to do it."

The Rowdies have started the same back four — Frankie Sanfilippo at right back, Jay Needham and Takuya Yamada in central defense, and Andres Arango at left back — all four games of the fall season. The defense is the most veteran unit, too. Sanfilippo, Yamada and Arango have played together for three seasons, and Needham is playing his seventh season of pro soccer.

"The alarming thing is when we get exposed by making rash decisions," Hill said. "I expect us to do better as a group because we are experienced."

Offensive tinkering: Hill suggested a change in formation might help generate more scoring opportunities for the Rowdies, who have two goals in three games since opening the fall season with seven at San Antonio.

"It's a thought in my mind to see if we can be more creative or have more concerted pressure in the final third," he said. "Depending on personnel that are fit, I might mix it up slightly with three forwards or two forwards and a loose forward."

The majority of drills this week revolved around precision and movement near the opponent's goal, with the team working to maintain possession and create passing lanes.

"Where I think they could do better is working smarter, not harder, at times," Hill said. "That's all the way through the team, and particularly in the final third, where now we're looking for that guile, that craft, that je ne sais quoi that makes a difference to every team."

Forward thinking: With a number of forwards at less than full strength — Amani Walker (ACL) is out for the season, Carl Cort has been in and out of the lineup with a hamstring injury, and newly acquired Etienne Barbara is building his fitness — Devin Del Do will likely see his minutes increase in the coming weeks. Used primarily as a second-half substitute, Del Do has appeared in 10 matches (three starts) for 341 minutes of playing time. He has one goal and one assist.

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