June was a month the Tampa Bay Rowdies would just as soon forget.
The first-year U.S. Soccer Federation Division II team lost five of six, including all four league fixtures. The Rowdies' only win came against USASA side Legends FC in the U.S. Open Cup, and the team was quickly bounced from the tournament a week later by league rival Miami FC.
Still, there were positives.
The Rowdies never lost by more than a goal. And every game was winnable, save for a lackluster performance against Portland on Sunday.
Coach Paul Dalglish attributes that aberration to the culmination of a grueling road swing that saw the Rowdies play just once at Steinbrenner Field in the past 36 days.
"With the travel, I think at the end of the month, the guys kind of looked tired," Dalglish said. "The game against Portland was the first game that I think we've not deserved something out of. We got dominated in the game."
All told in June, the Rowdies had two West Coast swings (Vancouver and Portland), bussed 10 hours back and forth to Miami and made longer-than-average trips to Puerto Rico and Dallas.
"You can't underestimate the effect that travel has on the guys," Dalglish said. "I think it finally caught up with them. Hopefully we're back on track for Sunday (against Miami)."
STUCK IN NEUTRAL: Starting forward Aaron Wheeler is questionable for Sunday. The attacker injured his leg during the 1-0 loss at Puerto Rico, a result the Rowdies protested to the league citing concerns of dangerous playing conditions.
The fear is that Wheeler, who is tied with Aaron King for most goals on the team with four, may have a stress fracture. By this morning, the team should know the results of an MRI exam.
"Hopefully, it's not too bad because he's become a pretty important figure to us," Dalglish said. "It's pretty hard to find another 6-foot-5 target striker that makes our system so effective. It'll be a really sore one if Wheels is out, but we're going to have to find someone else to step up."
CHRISTIE RETURNS: Midfielder Jeremy Christie rejoins the team today, returning from the World Cup in South Africa, where he made two appearances as a substitute for the New Zealand national team. Dalglish said Christie should be available for selection Sunday.
KICKS IN THE GRASS: Reserve goalkeeper Josh Lambo, on loan from FC Dallas, was called back to Dallas this weekend but will return to the Rowdies next week. ... Scott Buete is the only other player who won't be available Sunday. He has a hernia and will see a specialist this week. He is expected to miss four to six weeks, according to Dalglish. ... Because of their four-game slide, the Rowdies dropped considerably in the standings. Alone in second place when the month started, the Rowdies are sixth, sitting on 18 points, three points out of third place. First-place Austin (30 points) continues to distance itself from the rest of the league, with an eight-point cushion. ... Sunday's Coastal Cup matchup against Miami FC is the first of five home matches for the Rowdies in July. The game, which kicks off at 7 p.m., will feature fireworks afterward.
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Rowdies vs. Miami
When/where: 7 p.m. Sunday, Steinbrenner Field, Tampa
Tickets: Call 1-888-757-6934 or visit fctampabay.com