TAMPA – There was a sense of nervousness as the close approached 1 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon at the Ed Radice Sports Complex.
While two teams warmed up quietly on the field, other players sat quietly in the stands. Even as big a personality as former University of Tampa goalkeeper Ryan Thompson sat quietly, waiting to see what would unfold.
Soon after the opening whistle went, though, officially beginning the Tampa Bay Rowdies final combine, the determination and desire began to show through, leaving Rowdies manager Paul Dalglish happy with the opening day of workouts.
“Really pleased, I think the standard overall was very, very good,” Dalglish said. “It’s too early to say if we’ll be offering anybody any contracts just now, but certainly some people have put themselves in line if they keep showing as well as they did today.”
Dalglish added that he wasn’t surprised to see the level of determination shown by all of the players in what were two entertaining scrimmages.
“You’d be very disappointed if there wasn’t,” he said. “This is the best opportunity some of these players are ever going to get to play professional soccer, maybe the only opportunity they’re going to get, so they’ve got to show determination, they’ve got to show desire because if they can’t take the best opportunity they’re going to get, they’re not going to show the determination when they’re playing.”
WHO DID WELL: Dalglish was understandably reticent to name any names, but there were some players that caught the TBSB’s eye in a positive manner. The shortlist for Day 1:
Richard Jata, M: The former Chicago Fire draftee was all over the field for his side, showing an excellent level of touch and fitness. He also came close to scoring twice with headers from corners, and his example appeared to help the rest of his Yellow squad raise its game in the second half of its scrimmage.
Stanley Nyazamba, M: Central midfielder impressed with his ability to get up and down the field, and did well not only winning possession but keeping his side flowing with his passing. Also had an excellent strike from well outside the penalty area turned wide.
Sam Meheu, F: Was energetic from the start of the second scrimmage, and linked up well with forward partner Kenny King and his midfield, where Chad Burt and Alan Sanchez also impressed.
SCRIMMAGE SUMMARIES: Led by Nyazamba, the Blue 'A' squad opened the first scrimmage well, with Ryan Maxwell also looking dangerous down the right side. The possession and pressure they were able to generate didn’t translate to many chances, though, and just before halftime the Yellow 'A' side’s Jordan Seabrook scored after a quick free kick driven low into the penalty area was flicked on to him by Aaron Wheeler, and Seabrook finished well.
Seabrook’s Yellow side then played better in the second half as it appeared some on the Blue side faded a little, with Jata doing well in the midfield and former Plant City standout Cheyne Roberts having a good game defensively.
The Yellow 'B' squad came out buzzing in the second scrimmage, putting pressure on their Blue 'B' counterparts with excellent passing moves and runs off the ball. It wasn’t until the first minute of the second half that they scored the only goal, though, Shaka Bengura stealing possession from a defender on the left side of the Blue half before showing excellent composure to curl his right-footed shot from just outside the penalty area into the right corner of the net.
The Blue squad played better as the game went on, forcing a pair of good saves from Ryan Thompson. Blue forward Dwight Barnett worked hard as a lone striker, but it wasn’t until the game began to open up in the second half that it felt like he got the necessary support from his midfield.