Tampa Bay Rowdies
|Full name||Tampa Bay Rowdies|
|Stadium||Al Lang Stadium
St. Petersburg, Florida
|Owners||Bill Edwards (Majority)
Andrew Nestor (Minority)
David Laxer (Minority)
|Head Coach||Thomas Rongen|
|League||North American Soccer League|
|2014 (NASL)||Spring: 7th
|Website||Club home page|
The Tampa Bay Rowdies are an American professional soccer team based in the Tampa Bay Area of Florida, United States. The club was founded in 2008 and first took the pitch in 2010. The Rowdies are a member of the North American Soccer League (NASL), the second tier of the American soccer pyramid, and play their home games at Al Lang Stadium in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida. Their manager is Thomas Rongen.
When plans for a new professional soccer team in the area were announced in 2008, the club planned to be called the "Tampa Bay Rowdies", the same name used from 1975 to 1993 by Tampa's franchise in the old North American Soccer League. Before taking the pitch, however, licensing issues forced the club to officially call itself FC Tampa Bay until December 2011, when it gained full rights to the Rowdies name. The current club uses the same green and yellow color scheme and the iconic hoops of the original team, and did so even when they could not yet use the Rowdies name.
The Rowdies captured the NASL championship in 2012 with a win in the Soccer Bowl. They have a long-standing rivalry with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, with whom they have contested the Florida Derby since 1977.
- 1 Background
- 2 Club history
- 3 Club venues
- 4 Club culture
- 5 Players and staff
- 6 Achievements
- 7 Results
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
The original Tampa Bay Rowdies were an expansion franchise in the original North American Soccer League and played for 10 seasons in Tampa Stadium starting in 1975. The Rowdies were an immediate and consistent success, winning Soccer Bowl 1975 in their inaugural season, reaching the league final on two additional occasions, and regularly earning playoff berths. They showcased international stars such as midfield captain Rodney Marsh (England), league-leading goal scorers Derek Smethurst (South Africa) and Oscar Fabbiani (Argentina), assist leader Steve Wegerle (South Africa), and all-star defenders Arsene Auguste (Haiti) and "Iron" Mike Connell (South Africa). Head coaches included well-known managers Eddie Firmani, John Boyle, and Gordon Jago. The Rowdies enjoyed broad popular support from their "Fannies" until the NASL folded in 1984, after which the team played in the AISA, ASL and the APSL before folding in 1993.
On June 18, 2008, local businessmen David Laxer, Andrew Nestor and Hinds Howard announced plans to start a new soccer club which would revive the Rowdies name (as "FC Tampa Bay Rowdies") and start play in 2010 as an expansion team in the USL First Division, the second tier of the American Soccer Pyramid. However, in November 2009 FC Tampa Bay announced their intent to instead become the co-founders of a new North American Soccer League, which would begin play in 2010. These plans were subsequently superseded by the USSF Division 2 deal, which created a compromise one-season only league comprising teams from both the USL and the new NASL.
In January 2010, the club became known as "FC Tampa Bay" due to a legal dispute with sports apparel company Classic Ink over the merchandising rights to the Tampa Bay Rowdies name and related trademarks. The name was still used informally by the club until October 2010, when the team announced that it would not use the "Rowdies" nickname at all until the ongoing rights issue was resolved.
On December 15, 2011, after two seasons of play, the club announced that it had finally reached a licensing agreement to use the "Rowdies" name and classic logos, allowing it to change its name back to "Tampa Bay Rowdies" before the 2012 season.
The team played its first official game on April 16, 2010, a 1–0 victory over Crystal Palace Baltimore. The first goal in franchise history was scored by striker Aaron King. The first home game was held at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa on May 8, 2010, and ended in a 2–2 draw with Austin Aztex FC. The club started their inaugural season with a 5–1–3 record, but then won only 2 of its last 21 games and failed to make the playoffs with a final record of 7–12–11, leading to dismissal of manager Paul Dalglish. They did, however, capture the 2010 Ponce De Leon Cup.
For the 2011 season, FC Tampa Bay transitioned to the new North American Soccer League, a second division league, and also changed their home pitch, as they moved across Tampa Bay to Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg. Former original Rowdie Ricky Hill was named the club's manager in January 2011.
After winning only 2 of their first 10 matches, the club rebounded to finish 3rd in the league table and qualified for the NASL playoffs. A highlight was a 1-0 mid-season friendly win over the Bolton Wanderers of the English Premier League at Al Lang Stadium.
The 2012 season marked the return of the Rowdies name, as the club was finally able to secure full rights to use the moniker. It was also the most successful season in modern Rowdies history, as the club finished second in the league table and became NASL champions with a victory in Soccer Bowl 2012.
Tampa Bay amassed 45 points in 28 matches during the regular season under returning manager Ricky Hill, tallying 12 wins, nine draws. and seven losses. The Rowdies earned a bye to the semifinals of the 2012 NASL Playoffs, where they beat the Carolina RailHawks by a 5-4 aggregate in the two-leg series. In the championship round against Minnesota Stars FC, the Rowdies fell behind 0-2 after the first leg but were able to tie the aggregate with a 3-1 win in the second leg back at Al Lang Stadium. Extra time ended scoreless, so the match was decided with a penalty shoot-out, which Tampa Bay won 3–2 to secure the league championship. Hill was named the NASL Coach of the Year.
The defending champions got off to a slow start in two pre-league tournaments, as they went winless in their first six contests against MLS and USL Pro clubs. The Rowdies improved enough in league play to finish 4th in the NASL spring table with a record of 5 wins, 3 draws, and 4 losses. The highlight of the early season was a run to the 4th round of the 2013 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, which included a 1-0 win over the Seattle Sounders of MLS.
The Rowdies went 5-4-4 during the fall portion of the schedule, good for 3rd place. The club earned 38 points over the entire campaign, second most in the league. However, because of the NASL's new split-season format, the Rowdies did not qualify for the playoffs. Midfielder / striker Georgi Hristov led the team with 15 goals in all competitions and was named the NASL's Golden Ball Award winner (MVP).
The Rowdies struggled in 2014, coming in 7th place in the NASL's spring season and 8th in the fall while allowing the most goals (50) in the league overall. The club rose to 3rd in the table midway through the fall campaign but tailed off, going winless over their last 10 matches. Manager Ricky Hill was dismissed after the season.
The Tampa Bay Rowdies' new manager for 2015 was Thomas Rongen, who had coached the MLS's Tampa Bay Mutiny during their inaugural season in 1996. In March 2015, the Rowdies traveled to Portugal to play several preseason friendlies against clubs in the Portuguese second and third division. It was the first time that the current club had undertaken an international tour.
Al Lang Stadium
The Rowdies' home pitch since 2011 has been Al Lang Stadium, a 7,500 seat former baseball stadium located on the downtown waterfront of St. Petersburg, Florida. The seating arrangement utilizes the baseball grandstand along with additional bleachers at field level along the sidelines.
Although the Rowdies have been the only regular tenant of Al Lang Stadium since 2011, it was regularly used for exhibition and amateur baseball during the spring, necessitating that the playing surface be converted for soccer use by removing the pitcher's mound and replacing the infield dirt with grass.
After becoming majority owner of the club in 2013, St. Petersburg businessman Bill Edwards expressed displeasure with the condition of the playing pitch and the aging facilities at Al Lang Stadium. Months of rebuffed complaints about poor turf, leaky pipes, broken seats, and other issues culminated in a July 2014 lawsuit filed by the Rowdies against the St. Petersburg Baseball Commission claiming that the commission was not properly maintaining the "dilapidated" facility. The dispute was resolved in October 2014 when Edwards and the city of St. Petersburg brokered a deal that gave Edwards' Big 3 Entertainment company sole management control of Al Lang Stadium. As part of the arrangement, the facility would no longer be used for spring baseball, and Edwards agreed to complete $1.5 million in renovations as he sought to make Al Lang more soccer friendly.
When the club was founded in 2008, its owners announced plans to build a 5000-seat soccer-specific stadium in northwest Tampa along the Veterans Expressway. These plans were shelved in early 2009 when residents living near the chosen site voiced concerns to the Hillsborough County Commission about potential noise and parking issues.
After exploring other possible stadium sites around the Tampa Bay area, FC Tampa Bay decided to play its 2010 inaugural season at George M. Steinbrenner Field, an 11,000-seat baseball stadium near West Tampa. The club shared the facility with the Tampa Yankees, the Class A-Advanced affiliate of the New York Yankees, which presented some difficulties. Since the pitcher's mound and the infield dirt could not be removed, the soccer field was laid out across the outfield from the right field foul line to left centerfield, creating a pitch much smaller than most professional soccer fields, and a large portion of one end had a clay playing surface. Scheduling was also an issue during the summer when the Tampa Yankees play several games every week, and the baseball club did not allow the soccer club to play on a wet field due to fears that the turf would be damaged.
In 2013, the city of St. Petersburg began the process of creating a master plan for the waterfront area that includes Al Lang Stadium. Some of the proposals suggest replacing the entire stadium and surrounding parking areas with a soccer park complex centered by a new soccer-specific stadium. Club owner Bill Edwards has stated that "in a perfect world", Al Lang Stadium would be replaced by an 18,000-seat soccer-specific stadium, enabling the Rowdies to become a Major League Soccer club.
When the club first took the pitch in 2010, the badge was a green and yellow striped shield bearing the club name (FC Tampa Bay) and topped with a star representing the original Rowdies' victory in Soccer Bowl 1975. The badge was changed before the 2012 season to the original "Rowdies" text logo, and a second star was added after the club won Soccer Bowl 2012.
Ralph's Mob is an independent supporter group for the Rowdies named after "Ralph Rowdie", a fictional mustached footballer featured in the logo of the original Tampa Bay Rowdies. The group is known for wearing green and gold striped scarves, socks, and face paint, and for loudly cheering on their team while teasing opponents, much like the "Fannies" of the original Rowdies. Ralph's Mob has a designated seating area at home matches. Many members also travel to away games, particularly when the Rowdies play at in-state rival Fort Lauderdale.
The Rowdies' main rivalry is with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. The rivalry began in 1977 between the original Tampa Bay Rowdies and the original Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the old NASL when the term Florida Derby was first used. It came back into use again in the late 1990s, when both cities had MLS franchises (the Tampa Bay Mutiny & Miami Fusion). Finally in 2010, after a nine year absence Florida Derby re-entered the lexicon of American soccer, as the current squads began facing one another.
Each August, the University of South Florida men's soccer team face their crosstown rivals, the University of Tampa Spartans, in an NCAA men's preseason soccer match which celebrates the Tampa Bay Area's rich soccer history. In addition to holding the Rowdies Cup trophy for the next 12 months, the winning side also gets to hoist the actual 1975 Soccer Bowl trophy that was won by the original Tampa Bay Rowdies and is housed at USF's Corbett Soccer Stadium. As of the 2014 edition, USF holds a 17–9–3 edge in the all-time series, which dates back to 1972.
Players and staff
as of April 2, 2015
- Farrukh Quraishi – President & General Manager
- Perry Van der Beck – Assistant General Manager/Vice President of Community Relations
- Thomas Rongen - Head Coach
- Stuart Campbell – Assistant Coach
- Stuart Dobson - Goalkeeper Coach
- Eric Arbuzow - Assistant Coach
- Jason Riley – Strength & Conditioning Coach
- Malcolm Phillips – Equipment Manager
- Dr. Koco Eaton - Team Physician/Orthopedic Surgeon
- Dr. Sanjay Menon – Team Physician/Orthopedic Surgeon
- Dr. Christopher Salud – Team Physician
- Andrew Keane - Head Athletic Trainer
- Laura Tllinghast Hine - Yoga Instructor
- Dr. Samuel Meyers - Team Chiropractor
- Bill Edwards – Chairman, Chief Executive Officer & Governor
- Andrew Nestor – Director
- David Laxer – Director
- Lee Cohen – Vice President & Chief Operating Officer
- Paul Dalglish (2009–2010)
- Perry Van der Beck (last two matches of 2010)
- Ricky Hill (2011–2014) 
- Thomas Rongen - (2014–present)
- NASL Championship
- Winners (1): 2012
- Ponce De Leon Cup
- Winners (3): 2010, 2011, 2012
- Coastal Cup
- Winners (4): 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013
- Fair Play Award
- Winners (3): 2011, 2012, 2014
2013: Georgi Hristov
2012: Ricky Hill
|Year||Division||League||Regular Season||Playoffs||Open Cup||Avg. Attendance|
|2010||2||USSF Division 2||6th, USL (10th)||Did not qualify||2nd Round||3,866|
|2011||2||NASL||3rd||Lost in 1st Round||Denied entry||3,010|
|2012||2||NASL||2nd||Won Championship||3rd Round||3,116|
|Did not qualify||4th Round||4,044|
|Did not qualify||3rd Round||4,998|
|July 14, 2011||FC Tampa Bay||1–0||Bolton Wanderers||St. Petersburg, Florida|
|7:30PM||Clare 65', 85'||Report||Stadium: Al Lang Stadium
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