Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Yamada goes from unknown to Rowdies stalwart

Takuya Yamada will appear in his 100th game tonight.

Takuya Yamada will appear in his 100th game tonight.

ST. PETERSBURG — Four years ago, Takuya Yamada traveled from his native Japan to Tampa at his own expense. The unknown midfielder and defender participated in an open tryout with about 60 players for a handful of spots with a new soccer team, FC Tampa Bay.

Related News/Archive

He spoke no English. And he was, on average, 10 years older than the others at the tryout.

Today, Yamada is the model player for a franchise now called the Rowdies.

"He's a player that definitely stood out at the trial," Rowdies executive vice president Perry Van Der Beck said. "He was very consistent. His technique was there. His English wasn't as good as it is now. But watching him, you think, 'He can definitely play at this level.' "

Tonight against Edmonton, Yamada makes his 100th appearance for Tampa Bay — and celebrates his 39th birthday. He is the first player from the Rowdies' modern era to reach 100 games and the only player to appear in all four of the franchise's seasons.

"100 matches? I didn't know I made it that far," said Yamada, who will be honored before the game. "It was a surprise."

Rowdies coach Ricky Hill said Yamada is the epitome of professionalism. He rides his bike each day to practice; from his apartment to the Shimberg Complex training facility in Tampa, about 21/2 miles away. He practices with the urgency of a 20-year old rookie just hoping to make the team.

And while the rest of the squad returns to the locker room after an intense, two-hour session, Yamada lies on the field under the noon sun for 15 minutes of core strengthening.

"His appetite for work his insatiable," Hill said. "He comes in whether we've had a hard session the day before, and he's always at maximum. For someone of his age with his experience and where he's been in his career, the humility that he shows every day is a shining example for everyone, myself included."

Yamada played 13 seasons in Japan's top division, but his interest in foreign cultures led him to search for a place abroad to finish his career. He completed trial stints in Thailand and Australia before signing with Tampa Bay.

"I was planning to go to Australia, but I decided Tampa is a nice place. It's good for me," said Yamada, a starter for the franchise's first game April 16, 2010, at Baltimore. "If the weather is cold, it's not good for my body. Sometimes, it's too hot here, but I get used to it."

At 38, Yamada had his best season with the Rowdies in 2012. He slipped into a central defender role and anchored a previously shaky unit, starting 32 of 34 games and leading the Rowdies to the NASL championship (although a strained knee ligament kept him out of the final series against Minnesota). He was named to the league's Best XI All-Star team.

"In terms of his physical attributes, he's still well up there in terms of the fitness graph," Hill said. "So while that is still the case and he's still happy to play and still has the enthusiasm to play and the desire, then I'm quite happy for him to be part of this group."

Yamada doesn't know how many seasons he has left in him. But he's certain of two things: He wants to finish his career in a Rowdies jersey, and he wants to coach in the United States after he retires. He received his visa in July.

"I play one game and see if I can move," he said.

"If I can, then I play the next one."

Tonight: Rowdies vs. Edmonton

When/where: 7:30; Al Lang Stadium

Internet: rowdiessoccer.com

Records: Rowdies 1-0-2 (five points, tied for second); Edmonton 1-1-1 (four points, tied for fourth)

Tickets: rowdiessoccer.com, Al Lang box office (opens at 4:30), (813) 287-1539

Spring meetings: Tied 1-1 in St. Petersburg on May 4 and 0-0 in Edmonton on June 2.

Rowdies notes: After seeing the field for the longest stretch (77 minutes) of an injury-plagued season Aug. 17 at Minnesota, forward Carl Cort is out 1-2 weeks with a hamstring injury. … Midfielder Shane Hill is battling turf toe and is doubtful for tonight. … Midfielder Luke Mulholland returns after serving a one-game suspension for a red card earned Aug. 10 against New York. … The Rowdies are 3-0-2 over their last five matches.

Bryan Burns, Times correspondent

Yamada goes from unknown to Rowdies stalwart 08/23/13 [Last modified: Friday, August 23, 2013 8:40pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Cup-winning Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk makes Hockey Hall of Fame

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman said Dave Andreychuk's name has surfaced often the past eight years with the selection committee.

    30 Oct 2001:  Left wing Dave Andreychuk #25 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates towards the blue line during the NHL game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada.  The Maple Leafs defeated the Lightning 3-2.  Mandatory Credit:  Dave Sanford /Allsport
  2. Rays acquire slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria from Marlins

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Chaim Bloom said the Rays weren't necessarily in the market for a shortstop. The team has a number of those. But when the Marlins recently began shopping Adeiny Hechavarria, well, that was too much to pass up.

    Adeiny Hechavarria has emerged as one of baseball’s top defensive shortstops in the past three seasons with the Marlins.
  3. Rays at Pirates, 7:05 p.m. Tuesday, Pittsburgh

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Pirates

    7:05, PNC Park

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Probable pitchers

    Rays: Alex Cobb (6-5, 4.05)

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Alex Cobb #53 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays photo day on February 18, 2017 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Floida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
  4. Lightning journal: Forward Yanni Gourde agrees to two-year deal

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Just three years ago, Yanni Gourde was fighting to stay in pro hockey.

    Tampa Bay Lightning center Yanni Gourde celebrates after scoring against the Florida Panthers during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, March 11, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) TPA108
  5. What they're saying about Dave Andreychuk making Hall of Fame

    Lightning Strikes

    "Dave helped me so much when I was just starting my career, a young kid that was looking to find his way as a hockey player, a person and a member of the Tampa Bay community. In addition to watching him compile such awe-inspiring statistics, I remember him as a big brother to me and many others, making sure all the …