TAMPA – After five training sessions in three days in hot and humid conditions, there were a lot of tired bodies and minds at the Ed Radice Sports Complex as the Tampa Bay Rowdies first invitational combine concluded on Thursday afternoon.
Injuries, and players being unused to the Florida climate, meant that the final round of scrimmages was tricky for players, coaches and scouts alike, with players moving in and out to fill out teams. Despite that, though, Rowdies Technical Director Perry Van Der Beck said he was pleased with what he had seen over the three days.
“You know what? I’ve seen a lot of good things,” Van Der Beck said. “I can’t put a number of how many players I would take out of this, but I think I can walk away here and say there are some players here that can play at the next level.”
With the temperature well into the 90s, and little to no breeze to provide any respite, both 60-minute scrimmages were understandably not as crisp or up-tempo as on the opening night of the combine. Van Der Beck said he was expecting that, since many of the players had not been in competitive training recently, but was pleased to see a number of players try to play through a lack of match-fitness, with some participating in both scrimmages.
“They’re not match-fit, and that’s ok,” Van Der Beck said. “I know that going in, I take that, but as I told the players sitting down ‘guys, if you don’t come in fit, you come off the field, the more I see a player, it’s an easier decision for me to make.’ ”
One who took advantage of others sitting out was former Brandon High standout Kirk LaBusch, who played the duration of both games. While Van Der Beck didn’t refer to LaBusch by name, he did praise the work he put in over the week.
“There’s one local kid who I think played out of position, and played more games than anybody, and doesn’t have an agent, and was impressive,” Van Der Beck. “He just doesn’t stop.”
Next for the Rowdies is an international combine to be held in the United Kingdom from November 16-18. Van Der Beck said he hoped to have a similar number to the 40 outfield players and four goalies to attend as the Rowdies look for players that may be able to fill some of the seven international spots USL-1 teams are allowed to carry on their rosters.