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Coffee Talk: Here’s To New Beginnings

Well, Neill Collins’ first match in charge is in the books and while it wasn’t a revelation, it was the first point and goals the Tampa Bay Rowdies have recorded in nearly a month. We’ll take that.

Collins stressed after the match that he didn’t want to overwhelm the players with too many adjustments with just one day of preparation after he took over, so it’d be unfair to judge this one match as indicative of what we’ll be seeing from the Rowdies under the Scotsman. What we did get was a mixed bag of improvement and some of the same issues that have been hindering the club through the first two months of the season.

“To be honest, I don’t want to give away too much because, to some extent, I want us to be more of an unknown quantity until things become more apparent,’ Collins said of what changes he plans on making. “I just think that people always come in and praise players for effort. I think, what are we getting paid for? To not try? To give 95%? You know, it’s one of those things. The players obviously gave effort, which I would expect… I’m going to try to leave these players with as little excuses as possible so that they’ve got everything they need to be the best player they can be. I think that’s the role of the coach and that’s what I’m excited about.”

With that in mind, don’t expect too many scalding hot takes this week. Just be grateful Dan took time out from his budding career as a food exhibitionist to offer up his thoughts.

Dan Endonino

  • I’m not taking too much from performance or tactics from that match last night. It’s been a rough week, some players are still tired from Jacksonville, and they had just two days to plan. Next Saturday against Toronto FC II will be more of a showcase.
  • Having players like Alex Morrell and Akira Fitzgerald in the lineup for the first time, the match almost felt like a way to change the culture. Re-light the fires of competition for places in training and try to get the best out of these guys.

In his first start of the year, Fitzgerald proved he’s still got the skills to perform when called on. His incredible stop in the final ten minutes prevented the night from ending in disaster.

Mike Manganello on Twitter

This @akirafitzgerald save to keep the game at 2-2 in the 82nd minute! 🙌🙌🙌

“It’s always a big question to leave out your goalkeeper, but Akira’s been here for a year and a half. He’s trained great, he’s a fantastic teammate and I felt he deserved an opportunity. Cody (Mizell) started the season fantastically well and, like a few other players, suffered because the team wasn’t doing so well. I’ve got three fantastic goalkeepers. Akira did the job tonight, but we’re gonna have real competition for places. Akira took his opportunity well, but we want to have that edge in competition.” — Neill Collins


Matt Cox

  • Neill said there’d be “real competition” for places and Alex Morrell and Junior Flemmings went after that like stray dogs to a piece of meat – both players impressed me tonight, Morrell with his performance in his first competitive minutes of the year and Flemmings for the first time all year.
  • A lot of people speculated about the defense with Neill removed, and rightfully so. The best fix might be an offense that can score 3 or 4 goals a game.
  • There’s no doubt in my mind that he has the knowledge, attitude and personality to be a coach, but his tactics and man-management are the question marks — and they’ll stay that way for now. Like he said postgame, he likes being an unknown quantity at the moment and plans to use it to his advantage.

Patrick Patterson

This is an acceptable performance. We played fairly well against an unbeaten team, but can now take a better look at areas with opportunity for improvement. One of those areas would be defense. The down side to Neill coming in as head coach is that it leaves a large hole in the defense. Neill was arguably the heart of the D, so replacing that may be difficult.

Photo by Patrick Patterson/Unused Substitutes

Jeff Hernden

  • This was by no means an incredible performance, but it was not an awful one against the only unbeaten side in the league who had only conceded 3 goals all season. Like Neill said, they worked to do what he wanted, sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. Defensive lapses and bad giveaways are concerning, but can be worked out given time.
  • I like how Neill shook up personnel, showing there is competition for all spots. Big test coming up at Toronto. It’ll be interesting to see Neill’s approach. The next month overall will be a big adjustment period.

Jake Nutting

I’m really not sure how to evaluate this one. I view Pittsburgh as the second best team in the Eastern Conference and one of the best defensive sides, so a point doesn’t seem that bad all in all considering the wild week the Rowdies were coming off of. My hope is that the players will take this advantage of this week’s shakeup and use it as a much needed refresh button. Based on last night’s lineup selections and his post-match comments, Collins seems interested in giving the squad a reevaluation from top to bottom. Would be great to see guys seize that chance.

The good news is that after next week’s trip to Toronto (the league’s last place side), the Rowdies will mainly remain in St. Pete while Collins acclimates to his new role. Seven of their next 10 matches are set to be played at home. This after starting the year playing six of their first nine on the road.

Scholastic Substitutes 

If you picked up the new children’s book starring Pete the Pelican at one of the Rowdies’s team stores, then you might’ve noticed a familiar sight in one of the illustrations. Does this mean the Unused Substitutes are officially Rowdies canon?

The Unused 👌 Substitutes ⚽ Show on Twitter

If you never had a chance to get that Season 1 scarf, get the new @RowdiesPete book and you can have a cartoon version of it…

If you were wondering if Matt was letting Unsubs’ newfound fame go to his head, rest assured you are correct. What do you think? Do you see the likeness?

Matt 👌🏻 The Unused Substitutes on Twitter

I’m totally claiming that’s me with the S1 scarf

Jake Nutting
Writer at Large for The Unused Substitutes and NASL Beat Writer for Empire of Soccer. Fullbacks are people too.