Rowdies Take Aim At Fifth Coastal Cup Title Starting This Saturday

The Tampa Bay Rowdies, who won the first four out of five Coastal Cups, look to recapture the title in 2015
Tampa Bay Rowdies Staff | Apr 22, 2015

The new-look Rowdies get their first taste of Coastal Cup competition this Saturday as Tampa Bay welcomes Jacksonville Armada FC to Al Lang Stadium for the first time.

This year is the sixth-annual Coastal Cup, though it has been reconfigured for this edition. Prior to this year, the Coastal Cup was contested between the Rowdies and the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, with the Cup being awarded to the club with the best head-to-head record in league matches. With the addition of Jacksonville this year, the competition has been expanded to include all three Florida-based North American Soccer League (NASL) teams.

Fort Lauderdale is the reigning Coastal Cup Champion, having won the trophy for the first time last year. Tampa Bay won the Coastal Cup four straight years from 2010-2013. The Strikers already have a leg up in the competition this season, following a 2-1 win over Jacksonville at Lockhart Stadium on April 11.

The Rowdies are looking forward to entering the competition this week.

“It just adds that little bit of extra fire to the games,” defender Tamika Mkandawire said. “There’s both a trophy and local pride at stake. It’s something that we 100 percent want to win. The Cup is important, but these games also count toward the league standings so a win will help you both ways.”

The Rowdies and Armada FC met this year in a preseason exhibition at EverBank Field in Jacksonville on March 28. The Rowdies won 2-0 that evening on goals scored by midfielder Keith Savage and forward Brian Shriver. A duplicate of that result would see the Rowdies get off to a great start in the 2015 Coastal Cup.

“The Coastal Cup means a lot. It shows the strong points of each team and helps us see where we’re at compared to the other Florida teams in this league,” midfielder Justin Chavez said. “Our goal is to bring back the trophy to St. Petersburg and show the fans that we’re a different team than last year. We want to win every game possible.”

One of the key features of Coastal Cup matches that always make them so exciting is the presence of away fans at each match. The Rowdies’ supporters group, Ralph’s Mob, is arranging travel packages for green and gold fans to travel to matches in Fort Lauderdale and Jacksonville. Similarly, Jacksonville’s supporters group, Section 904, will be visiting Al Lang Stadium this week.

“Away fans definitely add to the game,” Mkandawire said. “Hopefully the fans will have a bit of banter between themselves and everyone will have fun. It’s a good thing to have away fans in the stadium, as it ups the atmosphere.”

Kickoff for this Saturday’s match against Jacksonville Armada FC is set for 7:30 p.m. at Al Lang Stadium

After this Saturday’s match against the Armada FC, the Rowdies’ next Coastal Cup game is a visit from the Strikers on May 16 at Al Lang Stadium in downtown St. Petersburg.

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