Friday, November 24, 2017
Sports

Tampa Bay Rowdies open 2012 NASL season

RECOMMENDED READING


After a fairly successful campaign through the preseason schedule, the Tampa Bay Rowdies (yes, that's their name once again) open their third season tonight at Puerto Rico. Next Saturday, the Rowdies return to Al Lang Field for their home opener against Edmonton. But before the first kick, take a peek at the story lines that will figure prominently throughout the weeks and months ahead.

Formation change

With a glut of forwards on the roster — six total, including holdovers Mike Ambersley, Tsuyoshi Yoshitake and Matt Clare along with newcomers Daniel Antoniuk, Luke Mulholland and Fafa Picault — Rowdies coach Ricky Hill has decided to switch to his preferred 4-3-3 formation, abandoning the 4-4-2 and extra midfielder the team played with last season. "There's no point playing with two (forward) and having four in surplus," Hill said. "(I) … played all my career practically in a 4-3-3, and it is a very attacking formation." The key will be the forwards' ability to maintain possession in the final third and keep pressure on the opposing goal. Otherwise, the team could be stretched thin in midfield and vulnerable to a quick counterattack.

The ageless wonder

While most men his age have long ago traded in a pair of shin guards for a coach's whistle, 37-year-old midfielder Takuya Yamada — he'll be 38 on Aug. 24 — remains an integral component to the Rowdies' success. The versatile Yamada logged the sixth-most minutes (1,992) on the team last season and proved a capable alternative at defender when the team needed help in the back. He'll again fill a wild-card role for coach Ricky Hill. "His professionalism and appetite and determination and drive are exemplary," Hill said. "He's a credit to himself, and we're fortunate as an organization to have him as one of our leaders on the field." Assisting Yamada in the leadership department is England's Stuart Campbell, who takes over the David Hayes player/assistant coach role, with the emphasis on player. Hayes (no longer with the team) was brought in last season as Hill's assistant but was pressed into game action as early season injuries mounted on defense. Campbell, a 34-year-old midfielder, played for Bristol Rovers in Football League One (the third tier in England) in 2011. Said Hill: "His vast experience and ability can help with what we already have in place."

The MVP candidate

After joining Tampa Bay in 2011 from A.C. St. Louis, Mike Ambersley quickly established himself as the team's most dynamic player. An unselfish striker with a tireless work rate, the 29-year-old led Tampa Bay with 11 goals (tied for third in NASL) and seven assists (third in NASL) and was named to the league's Best XI. He enters the 2012 season as one of a handful of preseason favorites to win the Golden Ball award, given annually to the league's top player. Ambersley, though, isn't focused on individual awards. "If you have 20 goals and your team is 2-26, you're not going to win anything," he said. "The most important thing is just to win, and then from there, all the other outside things will take care of themselves."

Additions and subtractions

Besides Stuart Campbell, the most notable offseason addition for the Rowdies was Luke Mulholland — who, coincidentally, knocked the team out of the playoffs last season by scoring the lone goal in Tampa Bay's 1-0 loss to eventual NASL champion Minnesota. The Preston, England, native scored two game winners in the playoffs for the Stars. "He gave them the lift they needed in that latter part of last season, so I'm hoping he can do the same for us through our season," coach Ricky Hill said. Also, keep an eye on Fafa Picault, who wowed scouts at the NASL combine. The 5-foot-8 forward will spend a couple of weeks on the bench with a slight fracture of his big toe but offers a blend of speed and athleticism to the Rowdies' attack that was missing after the departure of Pascal Millien, a fan favorite. Millien joined the Sligo Rovers (in the League of Ireland Premier Division) during the offseason. Also gone is dynamic midfielder Mozzi Gyorio. Hill said the Rowdies had hoped to re-sign Gyorio but couldn't come to terms on a contract.

 
Comments

Ugly injury sidelines Mississippi State QB

STARKVILLE, Miss. — Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald sustained a gruesome right ankle injury in the first quarter that forced him to leave Thursday’s game against Mississippi. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Fitzgerald was running the ball when ...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Sports in brief

SoccerStudy to look into soccer players and brain disease LONDON — A major study into whether soccer players are at risk of degenerative brain disease was commissioned Thursday amid concerns that the sport’s authorities in England haven’t done enough...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Captain’s Corner: Switching to bottom fishing for grouper, snapper

With water temperatures falling, offshore anglers soon will have less species to target. Migratory species such as cobia, kingfish and Spanish mackerel will be migrating south for the winter. Most offshore captains will switch to bottom fishing for g...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Jon Mott wins record fifth Times Turkey Trot 10K

Jon Mott wins record fifth Times Turkey Trot 10K

By BOB PUTNAMCLEARWATER — The Tampa Bay Times Turkey Trot has long been a fixture on Jon Mott’s sporting calendar. Not even a 103-degree fever Tuesday could keep him away from the event, in its 39th year. Mott, a record four-time 10k champion, added ...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Friday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYCollege basketballMissouri vs. St. John’s11 a.m.ESPNewsArkansas State at USFnoon820-AMVillanova vs. Northern IowanoonESPN2Wooden Legacy: St. Mary’s (Calif.) vs. Washington State1:30 p.m.ESPNewsTennessee vs. N.C. State2:30 p.m.ESPN2PK80: Portland...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Updated: 6 hours ago
Bucs players, coaches say they cherish getting game balls for special feats

Bucs players, coaches say they cherish getting game balls for special feats

TAMPA — In the jubilant moments after a Bucs win, Dirk Koetter will sometimes ask for a game-used ball from his equipment staff, hold it high in the locker room and present it to the player who was most crucial to the victory.NFL players can ask for ...
Updated: 6 hours ago

Latest lineNBAFavorite Line O/U Underdog Portland 3½ (211) at BROOK New York 2 (207½) at ATL at BOS 8½ (208) Orlando at O.C. 8 (204) Detroit at MINN 4 (207½) Miami Toronto 1½ (216½) at IND at CLEVE OFF (OFF) Char. at DEN 6 (208½) Mem. N.O. 6 (229) at...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Chargers pick off Cowboys

Chargers pick off Cowboys

ARLINGTON, Texas — Philip Rivers and the Chargers are on the move. Dak Prescott and the Cowboys are fading fast. Rivers threw for 434 yards and three touchdowns in his first Thanksgiving game in his 14th season and the Chargers beat the fading Cowboy...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Don’t forget Ryan Callahan in Lightning’s resurgence

Don’t forget Ryan Callahan in Lightning’s resurgence

WASHINGTON — Much has been made about the impact on the Lightning of a healthy C Steven Stamkos, who missed most of last season after knee surgery.But don’t forget about RW Ryan Callahan, 32, who is looking like his old self after hip problems plague...
Updated: 6 hours ago