Advertisement
  1. Sports

Rowdies name Rongen new head coach

Thomas Rongen, right, then coach of the Tampa Bay Mutiny, watches Carlos Valderrama dribble a ball on his head during a news conference.  [Times files (1996)]
Thomas Rongen, right, then coach of the Tampa Bay Mutiny, watches Carlos Valderrama dribble a ball on his head during a news conference. [Times files (1996)]
Published Dec. 4, 2014

ST. PETERSBURG — Maybe not in terms of days on the calendar, but not long after the Tampa Bay Rowdies had their new general manager, they had their new head coach.

Thomas Rongen was tabbed the new Rowdies leader Wednesday, reuniting with Farrukh Quraishi, who was his GM for the inaugural season of the Tampa Bay Mutiny in 1996.

"When Farrukh reached out to me, I came to the conclusion very shortly after that this was definitely a unique opportunity," Rongen said Wednesday.

Though that Mutiny team finished with the best regular-season record and Rongen was named MLS coach of the year, attendance and ownership issues led to the league relieving Quraishi. Rongen left, moving on to coach the New England Revolution for a couple of years.

Since then Rongen, 58, helmed two other MLS squads and spent nine years leading the U.S. Men's National Under-20 club. Most recently he was Toronto FC's director for three seasons. Before that he had his most rewarding role, which ended up with him being a bit of a film star.

Rongen took over the woebegone American Samoa national team in 2011. Prior to his appointment it had lost 30 straight international games, going winless for 17 years. A 31-0 loss to Australia in 2001 cemented the Samoans as the worst club in the world.

Under Rongen's guidance, American Samoa won a World Cup qualifying game against Tonga. The turnaround is documented in the acclaimed film Next Goal Wins, released this year.

The documentary shows Rongen at times being very hard on his team, but plenty supportive as well. That's his style.

"I've mellowed somewhat,'' he said. "I'm emotional, but honest. I think players appreciate that. If I didn't have that emotion I wouldn't be coaching, I just love the sport.''

Rongen doesn't have nearly as much of a task in turning around the Rowdies. He was already at work talking roster moves Wednesday with Quraishi and assistant GM Perry Van Der Beck.

With the coaching hire the Rowdies announced the release of goalkeeper Ryan Thompson, defender Jordan Gafa and midfielders Kyle Clinton and Evans Frimpong. That leaves Tampa Bay with just eight players, and Rongen has an idea what he's looking for.

"We're looking at increasing the athleticism, the overall team speed," he said. "And we want to create a culture within the club, one of respect, and character. We need to bring in the right people, not just for their playing abilities but good human beings."

The eight holdovers: 2013 NASL Most Valuable Player Georgi Hristov, 2013 leading goal scorer Brian Shriver, goaltender Matt Pickens, captain Frankie Sanfilippo, Corey Hertzog, Tamika Mkandawire, Blake Wagner and Shane Hill, son of outgoing coach Ricky Hill.

Tampa Bay plans to soon announce a meet-and-greet with fans, something Rongen is looking forward to.

"I kept an eye on the NASL, with my history with the Rowdies, Strikers (he was their first signed player in 1988) and Cosmos,'' he said. "Watching some video of their last game, seeing the stadium filled, clearly you can see these fans have a connection with the past and the old fans have led to young fans. We want those who come to the game to walk out of the stadium with a good feeling.''

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Tampa Bay Rays Tommy Pham (29) works to clean out his locker area for end of season on Oct. 11. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Whatever concerns the Padres had about Pham’s elbow apparently were resolved as the deal goes through as planned.
  2. New USF coach Jeff Scott has spent the last 12 seasons on the staff at Clemson, his alma mater. [ADAM LACY  |  ZUMAPRESS.com]
    The fifth Bulls coach in program history will appear at the Sam & Martha Gibbons Alumni Center.
  3. Florida State head football coach Mike Norvell speaks at a news conference Sunday. [PHIL SEARS  |  AP]
    His Seminoles demands will keep him from leading the Tigers in the Cotton Bowl.
  4. Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott talks with receivers Mike Williams (7) and Artavis Scott (3) during a 2016 game at FSU. Scott was named USF's coach Monday. [DAVID GROOMS/CAL SPORT MEDIA  |  ZUMAPRESS.com]
    Though not the bay area’s primary recruiter for Clemson, Scott’s fingerprints are all over the region.
  5. Tampa Catholic's Alijah Harrison attempts to block the ball from Andrew Jackson's Logan West during last year's state semifinals in Lakeland. [LUIS SANTANA  |  Times]
    Tampa Catholic holds on to the top spot after an impressive opening week.
  6. Rays manager Kevin Cash had more than a few points to make during his Q&A session on Monday in San Diego. [MARC TOPKIN  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Beyond the opener, Mike Zunino, Tommy Pham and Brendan McKay, here’s the rest of the story from Cash in San Diego.
  7. In Sunday's win, Jameis Winston finished with four passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdown, three interceptions and more than 400 passing yards. He’s the only quarterback in NFL history to hit those marks in a single game. [CHRIS O'MEARA  |  Associated Press]
    We’re talking about Tampa Bay’s grit and resilience but overlooking the reason why it fell behind in the first place: the quarterback.
  8. Quarterback Jameis Winston (3) reaches across the goal line for a touchdown during the first half of the Bucs' 38-35 win over Indianapolis Sunday in Tampa. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    Linebacker Lavonte David lit into teammates at halftime Sunday and the Bucs rallied from a 14-point second-half deficit.
  9. Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh (27) on the ice against the San Jose Sharks during second period action at Amalie Arena on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019 in Tampa. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    The event will take place Feb. 7 and will benefit Moffitt Cancer Center
  10. Bucs receiver Mike Evans signs a Texas A&M jersey during his charity bowling event in Tampa on Monday night. Proceeds go to the Mike Evans Family Foundation, which provides college scholarships to low-income students. [EDUARDO ENCINA  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    In it’s first year of existence, the Mike Evans Family Foundation has helped send low-income students to college.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement