TAMPA — The left back position has been worrisome all season for the Rowdies, mainly because of the team's lack of a truly experienced player to fill that spot.
Draymond Washington is the most capable, but he hasn't played a single minute this season after knee surgery on June 14. Washington likely won't be available at all during the NASL spring season and is targeting a return for the fall.
Raphael Cox has helped fill in at left back, but he is an attacking midfielder normally and lacks the instincts of a defender. Defender Takuya Yamada could play the position, but his value to the team is greater in central defense.
Andres Arango is also better suited for a central defender role, but he has performed well when asked to slide over to left back. Arango, though, has been hampered by a hamstring injury that has caused him to be in and out of the lineup through the first five games.
The Rowdies were off last week, so Arango was able to rest, and the 30-year-old said he's feeling healthier than he has in a long time, which should alleviate some of the left back concerns.
"Basically, I took the whole week off, didn't do anything at all, just didn't want to force anything, tweak anything," Arango said. "Now I'm feeling strong, and it's looking like it's not going to be a problem."
Arango had never played an outside back position before, except for a few appearances at right back for the Canadian under-20 national team in 2002-03, but he is growing into the position.
"I love it now. It's kind of hard to go back to the middle," he said. "I just feel like I get more time to see what's developing, and I see the game a little bit different, not always having to organize."
U.S. Open Cup: On Tuesday, the Rowdies face VSI Tampa Bay FC (USL PRO) in the second round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup after VSI knocked off Orlando City U-23s (PDL) 2-1 (5-3 in penalty kicks).
VSI will host the match at its home field, Plant City Stadium.
Rowdies coach Ricky Hill indicated the match could give him a chance to get extended field time for players such as forward Carl Cort and midfielder Stuart Campbell, who are coming off injuries, while resting other players that have participated in every minute of every match so far.
Keepers: Former Rowdies goalkeeper Jeff Attinella, playing his first match for Fort Lauderdale on Saturday after the Strikers picked up the Clearwater native on loan from MLS's Real Salt Lake, stopped six shots in a 2-1 victory over Minnesota.
Fort Lauderdale needed another goalie after Cody Laurendi was lost for the season to a lacerated kidney. Had the Rowdies suffered a similar blow, Hill said the first call the team would have made would have been to Attinella.
"We wouldn't hesitate if we'd got one of our keepers injured. We would have gotten straight on the phone to Jeff," Hill said. "But, because we do have two keepers who are vying for one place, who have kept clean sheets during the season and who are working every day really hard to be able to give us that stability at the back that we need, it would be disingenuous of us to them to bring Jeff in."
Alex Dixon, Part II? There was talk that Alex Dixon might rejoin the Rowdies, but that possibility has likely faded after the Houston Dynamo was recently hit with a rash of injuries, according to Hill. Dixon came to the Rowdies on loan from the MLS side April 5 and played in three games as a substitute, including scoring the winning goal against Fort Lauderdale. Dixon was recalled by Houston before the Rowdies last match against Edmonton.