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Marsh leaves for Britain, his future uncertain

General manager Rodney Marsh left Sunday for Great Britain on a two-month sabbatical, saying he needs a break from the position he has held for nine years.

"After nine years, I need some time to re-evaluate my life and career," said Marsh, 48, a former Rowdies player and coach. "But no matter what happens when I come back, I won't be serving the team in the same capacity."

Marsh said his contract with the Rowdies expired in late August. He hinted last week that he might not return to the Rowdies at all.

Team owner Cornelia Corbett said she would like to see Marsh return, but has agreed to give him time to decide his future.

"I think I'm going to wait and see how he feels after a month or two," she said. "He just needs some time to recharge his batteries. He's been working for nine years without a vacation.

"Rodney has the business acumen and ability to deal with all aspects of the game, whether it's getting players or marketing. He knows how it should be done. You never see anything half-hearted from the Rowdies and that's because of Rodney."

Until Marsh makes his decision, any restructuring of the team's front office is on hold, Corbett said.

Corbett said the team's head coaching position will remain vacant until Marsh returns, postponing an announcement regarding a new coach scheduled for this week. Ricky Hill, who took over as coach after the third game of the season, was relieved of coaching duties before the Sept. 26 American Professional Soccer League championship game, which Tampa Bay lost 1-0 to the Colorado Foxes. Assistant coach David Hay coached the team in the title game.

The Rowdies announced last week that Hill, a starting center midfielder and team captain, will be invited back as a player only for the 1993 season.

Hill posted a 13-7 record in his first coaching stint after replacing co-coaches Steve Wegerle and Ken Fogarty. He was chosen the APSL's coach of the year.

New venue, expanded schedule: The Rowdies will return to Tampa Stadium next year and play a 12-game home schedule, the team announced last week. Actual dates have yet to be determined.

For the past two seasons, the Rowdies have played most of their home games at the University of South Florida Soccer Stadium, but two of eight regular-season home games were postponed because of a flooded field. The Rowdies played five games at Tampa Stadium this year.

Dissecting the fall: The Rowdies (15-9 overall) lost six of their final eight games on the field and had to settle for second place three times: in the league standings, the Professional Cup tournament and the APSL title game. Colorado was the victor in each.

"From one point of view, we were tremendously successful," Marsh said. "To get to two championships in one season is a great accomplishment. Several players had a great first 14 games, but as a unit of players, certainly the last four away games that we played, including the (APSL) championship game, were extremely disappointing."

Marsh believes the Rowdies lost the APSL title by dropping the final four regular-season games, allowing the Foxes to overtake them in the standings with a 3-1 victory in the regular-season finale.

"We only needed seven points from the last four games, but we could not do that," Marsh said. "That gave them the home-field advantage. We went into the championship series with no momentum. I think we lost it rather than Colorado won it."

Roster to remain largely intact: Marsh recruited heavily last off-season, bringing in talented players such as two-time APSL scoring leader Jean Harbor and forward Phillip Gyau. Both signed multi-year contracts and will return in 1992. Harbor, who led the league in scoring for the second consecutive season, plans to train with Oldham of England's Premier Division during the off-season.

Other players with multi-year contracts include defenders Steve Trittschuh, Derek Backman and Terry Rowe.

Six players, including five regular starters, are free agents. They are goalkeeper Bill Andracki, defender Ralph Black, midfielders Perry Van Der Beck, Tom Reasoner and Hill and forward Mark Abboud.

The team has an option to renew contracts on the remaining five players, goalkeeper Brett Phillips, defenders Terry Rowe and Giles Hooper, and midfielders Chris Charles and Kevin Sloan. Marsh said the Rowdies would exercise their option on Sloan. He did not comment on the others.

Andracki honored: Soccer Digest has named Andracki its APSL player of the year, capping an impressive rookie season. The 23-year-old led the league in goals-against average for most of the season before ending the season with a 1.51 GAA and five shutouts in 16 league games. He posted a 1.39 GAA and seven shutouts in all games this year.

Other Rowdies on the first team are Trittschuh, Hill, Sloan and Harbor. Hill was named the league's coach of the year by the magazine.

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