TAMPA — The Rowdies have four games left (three at home) in the regular season, and coach Paul Dalglish doesn't plan on leaving any bullets in his clip.
Ninth in the United States Soccer Federation Division-2 standings with 28 points, they're three points out of the eighth (and final) playoff spot currently held by Minnesota. With that in mind, expect Dalglish to field his best 11.
M Long Tan, arguably the Rowdies' most valuable player, didn't play in their last outing, Saturday's 3-0 loss at Rochester. Dalglish rested Tan, 22, for the stretch run.
"This is a lot of our players' first professional season, and it's a long season," Dalglish said of the 30 games that run from April 16 until Oct. 1.
"These guys are used to playing three-month seasons in college. Now all of a sudden, they're playing every game. Some of them are tired. … These three home games, they're big games for us. We've got to make sure that we have these players 100 percent for the home games."
On the other end of the age spectrum, expect Takuya Yamada, 36, to see more playing time after entering the past two games in the second half and playing a combined 44 minutes.
"You can't expect a 36-year-old to play every game," Dalglish said. "He's a fantastic player, and he's a really calming influence in the middle of the field. And he's a ball winner. We're going to be relying on his experience massively."
The Rowdies host league-leader Austin at 7:30 tonight, travel to Montreal on Sunday and close the season against Minnesota (Sept. 24) and Baltimore (Oct. 1).
CHRISTIE RETURNS: M Jeremy Christie, who dealt with a lingering groin injury, played a full 90 minutes against Rochester, his first action since entering as a second-half sub against Rochester on July 22 and playing 25 minutes.
Dalglish said he hadn't planned on letting Christie go the whole game but had no choice after Tampa Bay fell behind 2-0 in the first half.
"I should have maybe taken him off in hindsight with 20 minutes to go so we didn't push him to keep him fresh for the Austin game," Dalglish said. "But hopefully (tonight), we'll see him a little bit sharper and then Montreal we'll see him a little bit sharper again."
MORE INJURY QUESTIONS: Starting G Daryl Sattler experienced a flare-up of the groin injury that kept him out Aug. 19 and Saturday. And D Rob Valentino suffered a calf injury during practice last week and also sat. Both are questionable for tonight.
"I think Rob's got more of a chance than Daryl," Dalglish said.
Big honor: The Rowdies will retire Perry Van Der Beck's No. 12 jersey at the Oct. 1 game. Van Der Beck played nine seasons as a midfielder for the first incarnation of the Rowdies (1978-82, 1984, 1991-93) and became a fan favorite.
In 1978, Van Der Beck was the first U.S.-born player drafted out of high school. He made 23 appearances for the U.S. national team, scoring twice, and was captain of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team.
While with Dallas of the Major Indoor Soccer League in 1985, the U.S. federation named him its player of the year. Van Der Beck is currently the executive vice president, technical director and director of player development for the Rowdies.
Bryan Burns can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2216.