ST. PETERSBURG — Rowdies fan favorite Juan Tejada was traded to the Indy Eleven for midfielder Nicky Law on Thursday.
Law, 34, long a stalwart in English and Scottish soccer, moved to Indy from English club Exeter City in 2021.
Born in Panama, Tejada, 25, played his high school soccer at IMG Academy in Bradenton and attended Eckerd College, scoring 23 goals, sixth in program history, in four seasons.
The forward burst onto the scene after joining the Rowdies as a preseason trialist in 2019, recording 10 goals and two assists to help Tampa Bay return to the playoffs after it finished 12th in the USL Championship Eastern Conference the previous season.
“Him and (Sebastian Guenzatti) led that line with so much energy and enthusiasm, and the fans really bought into him,” Rowdies coach Neill Collins said. “I think we’ll all remember that, in that he played a big part in getting the club back to where we think it belongs.”
Tejada has struggled to find playing time after an injury-plagued 2020 and has made fewer than 30 appearances since the start of the 2021 season. Collins said it was hard for him to see Tejada not get the minutes he deserved.
“I think he needs a fresh start and to be the man that’s getting the benefit of the doubt when he doesn’t have the best game,” Collins said. “Whereas I feel right now that if he doesn’t come on and really impact the game, then we’ve got so many other options that he then has to take a back seat.”
Law made his English Premier League debut with Sheffield United in 2006 before bouncing around all four tiers of leagues in England. He spent two years in the Scottish Premiership, Scotland’s top league, with Motherwell before moving to Rangers in 2013, when the Scottish giants dropped to the third-tier league following financial troubles. Law helped the club earn promotion back to the top league in 2016.
Collins said the Rowdies needed more depth at midfield with defensive midfielder Laurence Wyke often sliding into a back-four spot as part of a recent formation change.
Law likely will partner with Lewis Hilton, who leads the Rowdies with almost 1,600 minutes played, or Yann Ekra in the middle. Law made 18 appearances for Indy this season and led the team with four assists. He has one goal.
“He’ll play central; he can play higher as well,” Collins said. “I think what he’ll do at the top of the box when we’re recycling the ball is give us a bit of quality, a bit of creativity.”
Law was expected to be available for Saturday’s match against Atlanta United 2 at Al Lang Stadium, pending league and federation approval.
The Rowdies are on a 10-match unbeaten run (8-0-2) following a 4-1 win over Loudon United last week.
Contact Greg McKenna at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @McKennaGregjed.
Rowdies vs. Atlanta, 7:30 Saturday, Al Lang Stadium