Saturday, February 24, 2018
Sports

Six Rowdies miss practice due to injuries

TAMPA — As if surrendering a two-goal lead and losing 4-3 Sunday to New York wasn't demoralizing enough, the Rowdies were confronted with more bad news this week.

Six players missed practice Tuesday due to injuries and are questionable for Saturday's game at Fort Lauderdale.

Most notable was F Georgi Hristov, who leads the league with 12 goals, including one Sunday before sitting out the second half with a bruised heel. Hristov had a similar injury playing in his native Bulgaria, according to Tampa Bay coach Ricky Hill.

"He said that this injury felt worse pain-wise than the previous one, so we weren't too optimistic," Hill said. "But he's walking better."

Five games remain in the NASL fall season, and the Rowdies are among three teams that trail the first-place New York Cosmos by four points.

"(Hristov) was a big loss in the second period because he's one of our threats that helped make (the Cosmos) very uneasy," Hill said.

The defense has been particularly hard hit.

Frankie Sanfilippo continues to deal with a mysterious illness that saps his body of energy. Daniel Scott is limited with a sore back that has plagued him throughout the fall. Andres Arango is nursing a groin/abductor strain that kept him out Sunday. And Jordan Gafa, who replaced Arango, has a strained thigh.

Also, F Devin Del Do, who has been hampered in recent weeks by plantar fasciitis, sprained his big toe against New York.

On a positive note, forwards Carl Cort (hamstring) and Etienne Barbara (quad) are closer to full strength and could play Saturday.

Defensive deficiencies: Hill suggested personnel changes on defense could be in order after the collapse against the Cosmos.

"Too many of our defenders were under par in the second half," he said. "We had one out of four that was above par, and that was (Sanfilippo)."

The defense has been exposed at various points during the fall season. San Antonio scored three goals in 18 minutes in the opener. Atlanta nearly rallied from a 3-0 deficit with 20 minutes left, but GK Diego Restrepo preserved a victory.

Against New York, the deficiencies finally caught up.

"We never stopped the ball," Hill said. "We never cleared our lines with any real purpose. We didn't have composure.

"It's a problem we've had all year. When pressure comes on us, we start to wilt."

Hill's future: Hill's contract ends Dec. 31, and he and the team are in negotiations for an extension.

"I've had a great three years here in terms of enjoyment, in terms of the quality of the organization and how we try to do things the right way," Hill said. "It's been a very, very good experience for me. And I'd like it to continue if possible. But who knows?"

Hill is 31-21-25 in the regular season. The Rowdies won the NASL title in 2012, for which Hill was named coach of the year.

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