Friday, January 19, 2018
Sports

Rowdies' spring title hopes fade

TAMPA — Mathematically, the Rowdies still have a chance to win the NASL spring season title. Realistically, they must wait until the fall to try to earn a spot in the Soccer Bowl.

With two games left, Tampa Bay sits in fourth, five points behind first-place Atlanta. To remain in contention, the Rowdies must win at Atlanta on Saturday and hope Minnesota and Carolina tie. And that's just to stay alive for one more week.

Coach Ricky Hill, whose team has lost three straight, said he will concern himself with only what he can control: his team.

"My only focus is putting together a more consistent performance; 90 minutes of top-quality play, which we are capable of doing and which we were not far off only a week ago," said Hill, whose team allowed a late goal to lose 2-1 to visiting San Antonio on Saturday. "Only we can turn it around. We've always felt that if you can't win, you don't lose. We need to get back to that mantra as soon as we can."

Formation change: Hill tinkered with the formation Saturday, discarding the 4-4-2 he had used all season for a 4-3-1-2 that allows for more attacking options. He said he was pleased with the results despite limited practice time.

"I think we can afford to have another forward body in advanced areas to maybe be more of an attacking threat," he said; "maybe be able to keep the ball for longer periods higher up the field as opposed to having to build up from deeper."

Two to one: MF Shane Hill's suspension was reduced from two games to one on appeal, so he will be available Saturday. Hill was given a red card for a postgame skirmish in Carolina on June 8. But Hill goes on probation, meaning the two-game suspension returns if he's involved in a similar incident.

Perfect attendance: The Rowdies will have all of their players available Saturday.

D Takuya Yamada, who missed two games with a groin injury, practiced all week. D Andres Arango also will return from a red card suspension. F Carl Cort remains healthy after playing about 30 minutes against San Antonio. And D Jordan Gafa, dealing with a hamstring injury, practiced Thursday.

Only once this season have the Rowdies fielded the same starting lineup in consecutive games, May 25 against Minnesota and May 29 against Seattle.

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