Rowdies coach will miss championship game due to positive coronavirus test

Neill Collins and two others with the team will not be available for Sunday’s home game against Phoenix Rising FC.
Neill Collins will have to miss Sunday's league championship at Al Lang Stadium.
Neill Collins will have to miss Sunday's league championship at Al Lang Stadium. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times ]
Published Oct. 30, 2020|Updated Oct. 31, 2020

The Rowdies will be without coach Neill Collins and assistant coach Kevin Foley for Sunday night’s USL Championship final against Phoenix at Al Lang Stadium because they tested positive for the coronavirus, the team said Friday.

Another unnamed employee of the organization also tested positive, the team said.

No one else affiliated with the team tested positive in tests done after the three positives were received, the Rowdies said.

Collins and the other affected personnel are quarantining at home “under the care of team physicians and infectious disease experts,” the team said.

Assistant coaches Stuart Dobson and Chad Burt will lead the Rowdies on Sunday.

Collins said on a Zoom call with the media that he has been following all coronavirus protocols and was unsure how he contracted the virus.

“(Thursday) I began feeling mild symptoms, and after my confirmed positive test result, (my family and I) began quarantine,” he said. "I have complete confidence in (Dobson and Burt), the staff and the players remaining here together as a team, and that will be what sustains us to the final push.

“Take the virus seriously, wear your masks and practice social distancing.”

As for the game, Collins said they were still working out procedural issues with the onsite coaching staff but he trusts that the team’s preparation throughout the week will be sufficient against Phoenix.

“You prepare your team Monday through Friday, and then come that (game day), yes, you influence the game, but not as much as you like to,” Collins said of coaching.

“Once the boys take the field, you can make substitutions and you can shout as much as you want, but … you like to feel that it’s then up to the players to just go and play their game.”

The Rowdies, who have one of the stingiest defenses in the league, advanced to the final by upsetting Louisville City in the Eastern Conference championship match last week.

Tampa Bay, which has been in the USL four seasons, is making its first championship-game appearance. This is the second time Phoenix has made the final in the past three seasons. It lost to Louisville City in 2018.