Thursday, November 23, 2017

Tampa Bay Rowdies look to rebound against quality foe


TAMPA — The Rowdies' game tonight at Al Lang Field against Puerto Rico might be the most important of their regular season.

Coming off Sunday's 4-0 loss at first-place San Antonio, which Rowdies coach Ricky Hill said was his team's worst defensive performance of the season, Tampa Bay faces a similarly skilled offense in Puerto Rico. The Islanders play direct passes to their three forwards — Nicholas Addlery (eight goals), David Foley (five goals) and Jonathan Fana (four goals, five assists) — a tactic San Antonio used to expose the Rowdies' central defense and its susceptibility to quick-hit attacks.

Tampa Bay is eager to prove Sunday's result was an anomaly.

"It couldn't be a better game," Hill said. "I'd rather play Puerto Rico than a team at the bottom of the table because if they can't get up for Puerto Rico to try to rectify their wrongs, then I've got no chance. I shouldn't have to give a team talk; I should just be able to say: 'It's time. Over that white line, off you go,' "

The Rowdies have been in a bit of a slump since the transfer of star forward Tsuyoshi Yoshitake (six goals, two assists) to Yokohama FC Hong Kong on Aug. 4. They needed two late goals to tie at Carolina on Aug. 4 and looked lackluster in a scoreless draw at home to last-place Atlanta a week later.

Then came Sunday's drubbing.

"I think (the San Antonio loss) will add a little fuel to our fire, and that's something I think we needed," forward Mike Ambersley said. "Over the last three games, we haven't played the way we should be. Maybe it takes a little kick in the butt to get things turned around."

Savage-less: M Keith Savage has started 19 of 22 games this season but will miss at least the next two because of an abdominal tear in his side, Hill said. It's the same injury Savage had surgery to correct last year but on the opposite side of his body.

"He's just been feeling it come on gradually for the last month," Hill said, adding the team will monitor Savage daily but doesn't expect to see him on the field until Sept. 8, at the earliest.

Savage has the second-most assists (four) on the team and has scored two goals.

Reinforcements: M Raphael Cox, who was signed Aug. 17, the same day he was released from Atlanta, is available tonight. Cox scored two goals in 18 games for Atlanta. The Rowdies are still awaiting the arrival of F Carl Cort. The London native signed Aug. 10 but remains in Canada securing his visa. Hill said he hopes to have Cort, a 6-foot-4 target striker, available for the Sept. 1 game at Fort Lauderdale. On Friday, the Rowdies solidified their back line by adding D Eddie Ababio. Ababio is originally from Accra, Ghana, but he moved to the bay area at age 8 and played for Tampa's Gaither High. Ababio, who is available tonight, was released by Major League Soccer's Colorado Rapids on June 28.

. Tonight

Rowdies vs. Puerto Rico

When/where: 7:30; Al Lang Field, St. Petersburg

Records: Rowdies 10-7-5 (35 points), Puerto Rico 10-7-5 (35 points)

Watch online:

Standings: The Rowdies are tied for second with Puerto Rico. If the playoffs were to start today, the Islanders would be the No. 2 seed on the first tiebreaker, goal differential. The Rowdies are plus-1; Puerto Rico is plus-6.

Last time out: Tampa Bay trailed 3-0 after just 29 minutes at San Antonio on Sunday and lost 4-0. … Puerto Rico played a scoreless draw at home against Fort Lauderdale on Saturday.

Extras: Rowdies D Frankie Sanfilippo has four yellow cards. One more and Sanfilippo must serve a one-game suspension. … Tonight's match is the second in a tough three-game stretch for Tampa Bay. The Rowdies travel to fourth-place Fort Lauderdale on Sept. 1 for its next game after tonight.


Updated: 1 hour ago
Irish, Gamecocks potentially await USF women this weekend

Irish, Gamecocks potentially await USF women this weekend

The extended Thanksgiving weekend is upon us, with Christmas on deck. A season of bountiful dining, though some are wondering if Jose Fernandez has bitten off a bit more than he can chew.One thing's certain: There's not a cream puff or cupcake to be ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Days after a high fever, Jon Mott wins his fifth Times Turkey Trot 10K

Days after a high fever, Jon Mott wins his fifth Times Turkey Trot 10K

CLEARWATER — On Tuesday, Jon Mott had a 103-degree fever. That was not enough to keep him from maintaining his dominance Thursday at the 39th Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot.The former Northeast standout added to his record with his fifth title in the ev...
Updated: 6 hours ago
New Weeki Wachee basketball coach transitions from years on college sidelines

New Weeki Wachee basketball coach transitions from years on college sidelines

WEEKI WACHEE — Mark Lee was looking for an accomplished coach to take over Weeki Wachee High’s boys basketball team. Not only did he find what he was searching for, but he may have gone above and beyond with the hiring of Rick Scruggs.The 30-year vet...
Published: 11/23/17

Koetter says Bucs not distracted by Jameis Winston’s off-field issue

The Bucs are 1-0 since news broke last Friday of Jameis Winston being accused by an Uber driver of groping her during a ride in March of 2016.That's really all the evidence coach Dirk Koetter needs to say the issue has not been a distraction to the t...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Presenting the 2017 Sports Turkey of the Year

Presenting the 2017 Sports Turkey of the Year

Happy Turkey Day!Today is a day of tradition.The Macy’s parade. Turkey and stuffing. The Lions and Cowboys.And our annual "Turkey of the Year.’’It’s a tradition started by my former colleague at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the brilliant columnist P...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Nikita Kucherov really does admire Patrick Kane

Nikita Kucherov really does admire Patrick Kane

TAMPA — Lightning wing Nikita Kucherov has watched plenty of film on Blackhawks star Patrick Kane.Kucherov marveled how the 2015-16 league MVP uses deception to "hide" from defenders. He noticed how patient Kane was with the puck, how well he passed ...
Published: 11/22/17
Lightning beats Blackhawks in OT

Lightning beats Blackhawks in OT

TAMPA — The Lightning entered Wednesday’s game against the Blackhawks determined to avoid its first losing streak of the season. And it did in dramatic fashion, with Brayden Point’s power-play goal in overtime lifting it to a 3-2 victory. "A big boun...
Published: 11/22/17

Joe Smith’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Lightning-Blackhawks game

Every Lightning-Blackhawks game at Amalie Arena has a good representation of red in the stands. And Wednesday’s matchup was no exception, with a large contingent of transplants and travelers. "It feels like half the city of Chicago is traveling down ...
Published: 11/22/17

Thursday’s sports on TV/radio

TodayCollege footballMississippi at Mississippi State7:30 p.m.ESPNCollege basketballMissouri vs. Long Beach State11:30 a.m.ESPN2Tennessee vs. Villanova12:30 p.m.ESPNSt. John’s vs. Oregon State2 p.m.ESPNUPortland vs. North Carolina2:30 p.m.ESPNNorth C...
Published: 11/22/17