Match Preview: Puerto Rico vs. Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay Rowdies at Puerto Rico Islanders
Saturday, April 7 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Bayamon Soccer Complex, Bayamón, Puerto Rico
The match can be seen live online at www.RowdiesSoccer.com
What’s at Stake:
The Tampa Bay Rowdies will visit Puerto Rico to open the North American Soccer League season this Saturday. The Rowdies looks to start the season off with a win, in what will be a tough game against a talented Puerto Rico squad. The Rowdies are 2-0 historically in season openers, with wins in both the 2010 and 2011 seasons. Tampa Bay won at Baltimore 1-0 in the 2010 season opener, and overcame the Montreal Impact 1-0 in the 2011 season opener with a goal in the 85th minute by Takuya Yamada.
2011 Season Series:
Tampa Bay went 0-1-3 (W-T-L) against the Islanders last season, including a 1-1 draw at JRL Stadium on July 9. In its other visit to Puerto Rico, Tampa Bay lost 1-0 on Sept. 21. With the victory, Puerto Rico completed an unbeaten regular season at home, the only team in the league to do so in 2011.
Tampa Bay visited Puerto Rico on September 21, 2011 in its final road match of the regular season. Even though Tampa Bay outshot the Islanders 18-12, a quick goal in the fifth minute of play gave Puerto Rico the 1-0 win.
Returning for 2012:
The Rowdies feature four of their top goal scorers from a year ago, including NASL Best XI honoree Mike Ambersley. Ambersley ranked tied for third in the league with 11 goals in 2011, while his seven assists were third-best in the NASL. Overall, the Rowdies return 11 players from last year’s team which finished third in the regular season and made its first-ever playoff appearance. The team scored 41 goals in 2011, tied for second-best in the league.
Starting goalkeeper Jeff Attinella, a Clearwater native and USF grad, posted five shutouts in 2011 and was twice named NASL Defender of the Week. Overall the team notched a club-record eight shutouts last season.
2012 Rowdies Rush Preseason Tour Recap:
The Rowdies had an outstanding preseason with a record of 5-0-1, outscoring opponents by a combined 14-4. Tampa Bay showed a strong defensive presence, posting five shutouts. Offensively the Rowdies worked on solid build-up play, controlling possession of the ball throughout most of the preseason matches.
Newcomer Luke Mulholland led the Rowdies with three goals, while Mike Ambersley and Matt Clare tied for second with two goals each.
Scouting Puerto Rico:
The Islanders are coming off a great 2011 season, where they finished the regular season in second place with a record of 15-7-6. These results earned them a place in the NASL semifinals, where they lost to Ft. Lauderdale 5-2 on aggregate. Adrian Whitbread enters his first season as head coach for Puerto Rico, after Colin Clarke left to take the helm for the Carolina RailHawks. Since 2008, Whitbread has been the assistant coach for both the Puerto Rico National Team and the Islanders.
The Islanders went undefeated at home in the regular season a year ago, the only team in the league to do so. Puerto Rico is led by forward Jonathan Faña, who led the team with 11 goals in the regular season to rank tied for third in the league.
Rowdies Head Coach Ricky Hill
“We have a strong nucleus from last year, like Yama, JP, Andres, Frankie and Jeff Attinella, and it’s great to have a defensive base. We add to that with Draymond Washington and Daniel Scott, who are fitting in very nicely.
We've got competition in the midfield area. Obviously we've got Stuart Campbell coming with his experience, knowledge and ability in the midfield area. I'm hoping that will give us another dimension to what we didn't have last year at certain times.
Up front we have Yoshi, Mike Ambersley, Matt Clare and newcomers Luke Mulholland, Daniel Antoniuk and Fafa Picault. We've got six good forwards for three places to share. Luke had an outstanding preseason, and I'm hoping that he maintains his form moving into the start of the season.”