PLAYER OF THE WEEK | Rowdies Midfielder Joe Cole

Former Premier League Champion tallies goal, assist in big win in Minnesota
NASL Staff | May 31, 2016

Photo credit: Minnesota United

The Tampa Bay Rowdies signed Joe Cole with the expectation that he would help them win big games, and the English veteran did just that on Saturday, tallying a goal and an assist in the club’s 2-0 road win over high-flying Minnesota United. Cole’s performance didn’t just net the Rowdies three points – it also earned him NASL Player of the Week honors.

"It's great to receive this recognition,” Cole said. “It's been a good start for me here. It's been difficult because of the travel and climate, but Coach Campbell and my teammates have been brilliant with me. It was great for us to get the win and I'm very happy to contribute however I can."

Featuring in his third game as a member of the Rowdies, Cole played a part in both of the club’s goals on Saturday. With the game scoreless just before halftime, the three-time FIFA World Cup veteran got on the end of a cross from teammate Kalif Alhassan, heading the ball past Loons goalkeeper Sammy Ndjock to break the deadlock.

On the other side of halftime, Cole showcased his playmaking abilities, dribbling nearly 20 yards through the midfield before finding Eric Avila for Tampa Bay’s second goal. Cole’s 90-minute shift helped the Rowdies grab a convincing victory – their first in three games – over a talented Minnesota side that has been extremely difficult to beat at home.

"Joe was very influential in the game on Saturday, scoring a goal and creating another,” Rowdies head coach Stuart Campbell said. “He's had a real positive impact on our team since he arrived, and he has fit in perfectly. It's a credit to him because of his professionalism, but it's a credit to his teammates as well for the way they've welcomed him and helped him along."

In addition to notching his first goal and first assist in a Rowdies shirt, Cole was influential in the middle of the field, amassing 67 touches, completing 36 passes, and also doing some solid defensive work with five tackles and 10 duels won.

With the win, Tampa Bay vaulted itself into sixth place (12 points) in the NASL Spring Season Standings and just two points back from second-place Indy Eleven. Only two points separate the six clubs chasing the league-leading New York Cosmos, who have 18 points through nine games. The result in Minnesota meant the Rowdies dealt the Loons a formidable blow to their Spring Season title hopes.

Cole, 34, signed with Tampa Bay on May 4 from English side Coventry City. The London native has three World Cups and three English Premier League titles on his resume, among many other accomplishments. Cole has played for the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool, West Ham United, and Aston Villa over the years, and appeared in 56 games for the England national team.

The Rowdies return from Minnesota for a pair of home games this week, the first of which comes on Wednesday against USL side FC Cincinnati in the third round of the 2016 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. This weekend, Cole and his teammates will welcome Ottawa Fury FC to Al Lang Stadium for a 7:30 p.m. ET kickoff. The match can be seen live on ESPN3 (U.S.) and (Canada). 

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