TAMPA – No-one was sure how many players the Tampa Bay Rowdies would be looking at giving contracts to before their final combine began at the Ed Radice Sports Complex on Tuesday afternoon, including Manager Paul Dalglish and General Manager Perry Van Der Beck.
After Thursday morning’s final scrimmages, though, Dalglish said that he felt multiple players who had taken part over the week would be getting offers from the club.
“We’re definitely going to be offering contracts from it,” Dalglish said. “Even if we’d gotten one player it would have been worthwhile, but I think we’ll probably get more than one player from this.”
Among those that appeared to help their causes on Thursday were Jesuit alum Joe Donoho, who was excellent in the center of defense, and former Ridgewood standout and Chicago Fire draftee Richard Jata, whose versatility would likely be an asset to the new franchise.
Dalglish thought the good performances of Japanese midfielder Takuya Yamada lived up to the expectations the Rowdies management had when Yamada told them he would be coming to work out, but that there were others who hadn’t got Yamada’s experience who had also made a good impression.
“We knew he was a good player before he came in,” Dalglish said. “He’s played for his national team in Japan, he’s played nearly 400 games in the J-League, he’s played at the top level his whole career. That wasn’t a surprise to see him be so good, but some of the ones who haven’t played professionally before, or who haven’t played at a high level before have stood out, which was really pleasing.”
COMBINE QUALITY: Jata had been at the first combine the Rowdies held in Tampa last year, and said he thought the quality of player brought in for this week’s event was of a higher standard.
That was certainly reflected in Thursday’s second game, which was remarkably sharply played. Dalglish said the sides had been switched around to try and fit some pieces together after seeing the player’s styles up close for the first two days.
“We did try and doctor it a little today to try and get players we did have an interest in playing together,” Dalglish said. “It was great to see the standard, even though there were some tired legs, the standard was still good.”
Jata was pleased with the way he played, picking up an assist when his inswinging corner from the right was met by Kyle Clinton at the far post for a low volleyed finish.
“I’m happy, I like it here, we’ll see if it works out, I hope so,” Jata said. “Last day, I couldn’t hold anything back, and I thought this was the best team that I had as far as guys that play like me. I just played simple today, I didn’t try to do too much dribbling, just played a lot of one, two, three-touch, and it worked out a lot better.”
HOMETOWN BOOST: A number of players with local ties played alongside Donoho and Jata in the final game, with Jay Ayers (Bloomingdale), Chad Burt (Northeast) and Kirk LaBusch (Brandon) among them.
For Ayers, the event was an enjoyable one, as he got to play alongside players he had grown up competing with and against. The key thing, though, was putting in the type of performances that would allow him a chance to return when the Rowdies open their training camp.
“It was good getting a run in with some of the local guys,” Ayers said. “It’s always nice getting back on the field with them, but they’re looking to bring in talent, whether it’s from Tampa or not. Obviously, if they’re looking at a (couple of players) and they bring the same amount of skill to the table, they’re going to select the local guy, so that gives us a little advantage I think.”
Dalglish said he thought the opportunity of playing for a home-town team was an excellent incentive for the players with local ties, and he thought that had allowed them to raise their games as a result.
“I think the local guys are hungry for it,” Dalglish said. “They want to play for the hometown team, and they showed it today. It’s great for us if we can get local talent on the team because it gives the fans something to relate to. They’ve seen the journey they’ve taken to get to the professional level with the Rowdies, and then they know it’s a realistic journey they can take.”