Volume 4, Issue 5
In This Issue: • Record Breaking Rowdies • Red Bulls II Rebound • Tailgate Talking Points • Inside the Yellow and Green Dream • Tejada’s International Debut
THE BENCH is an independent publication by
THE UNUSED SUBSTITUTES Editing and Design: Matthew Cox Words: Jake Nutting Guest Words: Grant Murthi Pictures: Patrick Patterson Unsub At Large: Daniel Endonino
Table of Contents: Page 2 Page 3 Page 5 Page 7 Page 8 Page 9
Eastern Conference Update Tejada Impresses On The International Stage Tailgate Talking Points Record Breaking Rowdies Coachâ€™s Corner Inside the Yellow and Gold Dream
by matthew cox
EASTERN CONFERENCE UPDATE Games
Tampa Bay NYRB2
3 4 5 6
Indy Nashville North Carolina Pittsburgh
20 21 22 20
12 11 10 9 9
4 5 5 3
4 5 7 8
15 18 16 18
40 38 37 35
DLWLW LLWWW LWLWL LDWWW
21 19 19
10 -3 -1
11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18
Charlotte Birmingham Bethlehem Loudoun Memphis Atlanta Hartford Swope Park
23 21 22 18 20 21 23 20
5 6 6 5 4 4 4 3
9 10 12 9 10 12 15 11
9 5 4 4 6 5 4 6
-8 -16 -14 -6 -10 -26 -24 -20
24 23 22 19 18 17 16 15
WWDLL LWWWD LLWLL DLLWL WLDWL LLDLW WLLLW WLWLL
9 Charleston 10 Saint Louis
WDLLW DLWLD DLLWL
The Rowdies find themselves on top of the table in the East heading into the final 3 games of the season. Theyâ€™ve all but secured a playoff spot and almost certainly a minimum of 1 home game. For a team that came into the season looking to rebound from a rotten 2018 and set their sights on a return to the playoffs, the bar has to have been raised to securing a top 4 finish, if not the Eastern Conference regular season championship itself. Unsurprisingly, their main competition is the Red Bulls farm team. League champs in 2016, they knocked the Rowdies out of the playoffs the next year and ended Cincinnatiâ€™s cup dreams last year. The clubs split their head to head matches this year with the home team winning each by an identical 2-0 scoreline. Securing home field advantage could be the determining factor in a potential playoff matchup.
Indy is lurking in the 3rd spot, 6 points back and with two games in hand. A draw in Indianapolis earlier in the season means the return match in St. Pete, the regular season home finale on October 12th, looms large. Between now and then, the Rowdies will face 4 other teams currently in playoff positions, 3 of them on the road, where the Rowdies have been the best team in the league - a stunning turnaround from years of setbacks away from Al Lang.
by Jake Nutting
TEJADA IMPRESSES ON THE INTERNATIONAL STAGE While the rest of his Tampa Bay Rowdies teammates were likely already asleep in their hotel beds the night before their matchup at New York Red Bulls II last Saturday, Juan Tejada was only just making his way back to the team after a whirlwind week with Panama’s U-23s.
“Yeah, it was crazy. I landed at like 1am and it was a busy airport. I had to wait two hours to getthrough the visa and immigration stuff to get into the country, but I was just happy to be reunited with the team,” Tejada said.
Even after his lengthy trek back from Panama and playing 180 minutes in the span of a few days for his native country, the young striker was willing and ready to start and play for as long as the Rowdies asked him to. He was ultimately utilized in the match as a late substitute as the Rowdies looked for a spark in the losing effort to New York.
For Tejada, 22, the trip home to represent Panama in two Olympic Qualifying matches against ElSalvador was a welcome chance to see family and friends and to have them see him play in person. He’s ascended quickly in his first year in the professional ranks, scoring 7 goals in 20 appearances, but most of
his loved ones have had to watch from afar back in Panama.
Still, the trip home was business first. Panama drew it’s first match & lost it’s second, but Tejada rewarded everyone who came to see him represent his country with an outstanding goal 27 minutes into the first leg at Estadio Rommel Fernández in Panama City. “It was special to play for the national team in front of everybody, my family, my friends. I had many people come to the stadium. Unfortunately we didn’t get the results that we wanted to, but personally for me it was great. It was a good experience,” he said. “ It was nice to see my family. I actually got to Panama and had no time to see them. I had to go straight to the hotel with the group. The only time I could see them was after the game at the stadium. It was nice. They got to see me play for the national team and of course score.” Although this was his first appearance in a competitive match for Panama, Tejada is no stranger to country’s national team program. He knew a handful of the players on the roster for Olympic Qualifying from his time with the country’s U-20 squad a few years back. After months of hoping he was
page 4 ready to take the next step, that experience with the U-20s ended in disappointment as he was cut before a major tournament.
“This was like my first official debut game for Panama,” he said. “It was special because I was with the U-20s for like five months in 2016. I was expected to play with them in tournaments and everything, but you know things happen and they decided to cut me from the last list of players right before a tournament. That was something that I just wanted to come back from. That happens in football. You have failures and you come back from it. That’s what happened with me. It was nice to come back from it and try to help the team.”
Panama. I have the same ambition I have when I started my professional career. I just want to keep learning, keep improving. That’s my mentality.” Panama may have fallen short of its goal, but Tejada feels confident in what he was able to demonstrate to the fans and the team’s staff in his two performances. With valuable international experience now under his belt, the young attacker is only growing more and more confident.
“Everybody, the coaches especially, they let me know I did a pretty good job and they’re going to take me into consideration for future stuff, future call-ups. They’re going to follow my progression, how I develop Tejada made the most of his first starting myself with the Rowdies,” he said. “The fans opportunity, taking a ball into the final third were kind of surprised by me because overin stride and boxing a Salvadoran defender all the population of Panama didn’t know out before slotting a shot past the keeper. about me, about how I played. They’ve heard about me being with the Rowdies and “I got a very good ball played in, and these that I’ve scored a few goals here. They were are the type of movements I’ve been learnwaiting for me to go to Panama and showing here with Martin Paterson and Neill Col- case what I can do. It was good for me to go lins. I used my body to get the defender out. there and have two good games and get to I knew it was a good finish when I hit it,” he score a goal. So I’m very happy and I think said. “I was happy of course, but at the same the Panamanian fans are quite happy with time it’s what is expected of me. I was just the potential I can have for the future.” happy to help the team. It felt good until we conceded an own goal actually in the second half that tied the game. But at the time I was very happy and it gave me alot of confidence going forward with the national team and the Rowdies.” He gives much credit to the Rowdies for his impressive performances with Panama.
“In a few months I’ve learned so much stuff and I still need to learn a lot of stuff to keep improving and helping the Rowdies and
T a i l g a t e Talking Points
by Jake Nutting Szpala handed out three red cards to Las Vegas Lights FC.
• Every player on the Rowdies roster has now played competitive minutes. Forward Jaime Siaj was the lone player waiting for his shot, which came when he entered as a substitute against New York. Every player on the roster also made the trip to New York. This despite the fact that many were carrying knocks. John McCarthy, Andrew Tinari, Shawn Barry, David Najem, Leon Taylor watched from the stands as they were unavailable due to injuries. Since the Rowdies only have 23 players on the roster, losing five to injury meant Neill Collins had an easy time picking his 18 for the gameday roster. Couple that with the fact Siaj was playing his first competitive minutes after a lengthy quadricepinjury and that Juan Tejada had returned from his Panama trip at 1am, and it’s fair to say the Rowdies were not at full strength.
• The Rowdies will be without Papé Diakité for Saturday’s clash against the Charleston Battery. Diakité is suspended for one match due to yellow card accu• Last week was Tampa Bay’s second demulation after being cautioned in last feat of the year in league play, but it was week’s match against New York. It’s the also just the third time all year that the second time Diakité has been suspended club has been kept off the scoresheet. this year. The center back is currently Loudoun United and Indy Eleven manthird on the team in minutes played havaged to blank the Rowdies in scoreless ing played exactly 1800 minutes. Defenddraws earlier in the season. er Caleb Richards (1,888) and captain Sebastian Guenzatti (1,847) rank first • The Battery received an unexpected and second respectively. break last week after the club’s bus was involved in atraffic accident on the way • Lukasz Szpala will be handling referto the stadium to face the Swope Park eeing duties on Saturday in Charleston. Rangers. Some Battery players were It’s only the third time Szpala has been evaluated at the hospital, but thankfulinvolved in a Rowdies match. He was the ly no one was seriously injured. Their center referee in the club’s 4-1 win at match with Swope Park has been reAtlanta United II earlier in the season. In scheduled for September 11. his last outing as a center ref on July 19,
page 6 • This week’s trip to Charleston will likely be the last time the Rowdies ever play at MUSC Health Stadium. The Battery’s ownership has sold the venue, which will be demolished at the end of the season after 20 years of serving as the home for the soccer club. The Rowdies will hope to find better luck at the stadium. All three of their previous trips to MUSC Health Stadium have resulted in losses, as they’ve been outscored 4-0. Luckily, the Rowdies have already set a new franchise record with six road wins this season. • Saturday will also see the first ever No Quarter Derby decided. The competition is a joint venture between supporters groups of the Rowdies and the Battery. Ralph’s Mob and the Skyway Casuals represent the Rowdies side of things, while The Regiment and Queen Anne’s Revenge rep the Battery. The Battery hold a slight edge over the Rowdies in the derby after the 1-1 draw between the two sides at Al Lang earlier in the season. If the two sides are even on goals at the end of Saturday’s match, away goals will serve as the first tiebreaker. Fair play points (1 point for yellow cards, 3 points for red cards) serves as the second tiebreaker. If it’s somehow still tied after that a coin toss will decide the outcome.The winning side will get to hang on to the No Quarter Derby Chest, which will be filled with local spirits by the losing side.
Record Breaking Rowdies With so many changes for the Rowdies on the field this year, you wouldn’t immediately expect to keep track of a couple key records. One quick look and it becomes abundantly clear that Georgi Hristov’s status as the all-time appearance and scoring leading is likely safe for years to come. Still, it’s worth keeping an eye on how both Sebastian Guenzatti and Leo Fernandes are steadily moving up the list in appearances and could crack the top ten if they continue at their current pace. Also, Guenzatti’s stellar scoring productivity this year also has him swiftly moving up the list of goalscorers. Appearances (All Competitions) 1. Georgi Hristov (2013-2018): 173 2. Keith Savage (2011-2017): 133 3. Takuya Yamada (2010-2014): 120 4. Matt Pickens (2014-2017): 112 5. Frankie Sanfilippo (2011-2015, 2016): 108 6. Tamika Mkandawire (2014-2018): 99 7. Shane Hill (2011-2014): 88 8. Darnell King (2015-2017): 86 9. Joe Cole (2016-2018): 85 10. J.P. Rodrigues (2011-2012, 2014): 70 11. Mike Ambersley (2011-2013): 69 12. Michael Nanchoff (2016-2018): 63 T-13. Luke Mulholland (2012-2013): 60 T-13. Sebastian Guenzatti (2017-present): 60
T-13.Leo Fernandes (2017-present): 60 16. Jeff Attinella (2011-2012): 59
by Jake Nutting Leading scorers (All Competitions) 1. Georgi Hristov: 70 goals 2. Mike Ambersley: 23 goals 3. Aaron King: 22 goals 4. Joe Cole: 20 goals 5. Sebastian Guenzatti: 19 goals 6. Luke Mulholland: 17 goals 7. Keith Savage: 17 goals
In addition to the individual records, the race is on to set some new club records as well. The win last night in Charleston set a new club record for away wins in a season at 7, while the 5-0 scoreline was the largest margin of victory in an away game, eclipsing two 4-0 wins in 2011. With 39 goals through 22 games, the Rowdies are averaging 1.77 goals per match. At that pace, the Rowdies would score 60 goals by the end of the season, smashing their previous record of 51 in 2013 in the NASL and their USL record of 50 set two seasons ago. The club has also taken 46 points from those 22 matches, an average of 2.09 per match, which would put them on pace to finish the season with 71 points, bettering their current record of 53 points, set in the debut USL season as well.
by Jake Nutting The Rowdies were handed just their 2nd defeat in league action this season last week in New Jersey as New York Red Bulls II pounced on two defensive errors to win 2-0. Unused Substitutes had the chances to ask Neill Collins a few questions moments after the loss.
page 8 ments, did it feel like a goal was coming?
Neill Collins: I think we had better chances in the first half. I think when I go back and look through the game, we had great opportunities. We created plenty of opportunities to score a goal, if not two. I think we needed that first goal to then get that Unused Substitutes: A tough loss tonight. momentum. We were a few men down, so Only the third time you’ve been shutout this we weren’t able to make as many changes year. What went wrong for you on the field as we’ve been able to in the past but still we tonight? had another chance put over the bar. Their goalkeeper had a great game. I wouldn’t be Neill Collins:Simply, they put the ball in surprised if he was man of the match. Honthe net and we didn’t. People always tend to estly there’s not much in that game. There’s look at scoreline and then look at it one or really not a lot in that game. It could have two ways. We’ve played worse than that and easily gone either way and it could have won. I thought in the first 20 minutes we easily been a tie, so we’re not gonna beat were excellent, I thought we were absolute- ourselves up about it. We’ll learn a couple ly dominant. I thought we looked like a team of things from it and move on from it pretty top of the league. We made a mistake and fast. we got punished. I thought we responded really well. We should’ve gone level in the Unused Substitutes: How much harder is it game. Then again another mistake, a good to play the way you want to play when there goal on their part and we go two-nil down. is so many stoppages in play like there was But I cannot be hard on those boys. We ask tonight? Does it make it difficult to develop for good performances because good pera flow or rhythm? formances translate to wins. If we play like that for the rest of the season, we’ll win a Neill Collins: I thought we dealt with the lot more than we lose. So I’m disappointed, officiating and the opposition relatively very, very disappointed because I hate loswell, but it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating. But ing. I love winning and we’re used to winagain, there’s no excuses here. It wasn’t like ning. We’ve not had that feeling of losing too in the past where, as you know, this team often, but I can’t criticize them. We’ve had has been on the bad end of some refereeing a tough week. We’ve got boys injured, boys performances and then moaned about it. carrying knocks. There are some really good This team has been better than the worst players missing. I thought we performed in officiating and that’s because they’re a good large part really well. side. So we’ve aimed to do that. I don’t think anyone else cost us tonight. It was ourUnused Substitutes: Y ou played for half an selves, but not by terrible play, just the odd hour with a man advantage. Do you feel like mistake. Human error, you know. They’ve you did enough to exploit that advantage? not been guilty ofthat too often, so I can’t be You put them under a lot of pressure in mo- too hard on them.
by Grant Murthi
Yellow and Green Dream Testimonial This is a blog write-up from me, a camp participant, following a successful soccer camp conducted by the Tampa Bay Rowdies between 16 and 20 July 2019 at their Vertimax soccer facility on Benjamin Road, Tampa FL USA. The co-ed Yellow and Green Dream camp was attended by about a hundred aspiring soccer stars of the region, aged up to 19 years. The coaches and their staff were from the US and from the Premier League’s Norwich City FC.
The days were long and extremely demanding. Each day had several thematic combinations: skills, drills, strategy, endurance, ball control, etc. The coaches were disciplinarians and they expected the participants to exhibit high levels of sportsmanship and a good team attitude. The weather conditions were essentially hot and humid, with the temperature hovering around 90°F accompanied by late afternoon thunderstorms. While we were largely unaffected by the harsh weather, the coaches were very careful to stop practice if there was a chance of rain and lightning. Hydration was a key requirement as we surely lost bodily fluids playing in the harsh sun. The coaching staff provided electrolyte related liquids to all participants. The overall experience can be summarized in the points below:
1. The camp was administered very well, from quick registration, the transportation to and from the “collection points” where parents deposited their wards, to managing dayto-day practice without a hitch. 2. The highlight of the camp was a visit to Al Lang stadium to meet Rowdies team members and for practice. For me personally, meeting Grant Holt, an ex-Canary from Norwich City and the club’s current academy director, was a treat. I had had his soccer trading card as a child! 3. The professionalism of the coaches and staff was another pleasant experience. 4. The coaches stressed both on and off field learning points: Skills matter but good skills must be supported by a good attitude, good team spirit and a willingness to listen to the advice of superiors. 5. Finally, Luis Cucatti was very approachable and spent valuable time advising my Dad as to what was expected of aspiring young soccer players for them to be accepted to good educational institutions : Good grades first, skills and attitude a close joint second and an overarching focus and tenacity!
page 10 We ended the 5 day camp with a complimentary ticket to the Rowdies vs. St. Louis game at Al Lang stadium, where the Rowdies resoundingly defeated St. Louis 4-1. What a finish to 5 days of learning and fun. My Dad asked me afterward: Would you do this again next year? My answer was a definite YES!
Grant Murthi is entering his junior year at Hudson High School in Pasco County. He plays forthe schoolâ€™s soccer team and also recently joined Florida Coast FC in west Pasco.