ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – After waiting 4 months between their season-opening victory in March and their second game on the schedule, the Tampa Bay Rowdies are beyond ready to re-start this pandemic-paused season.
The United Soccer League is resuming play on Saturday, July 11 with 6 matches, including the Rowdies home opener against Atlanta United 2. As an added bonus, they will be able to host around 100 fans and family members for the game.
“It’s a very pleasant surprise,” said Rowdies President Lee Cohen. “I think when you talk to the supporters– Ralph’s Mob or Skyway Casuals’ or even our players’ family members– to be able to have them here, cheering for them, rooting for them. Bu to be able to be inside Al Lang in what we probably thought maybe 2 weeks ago or a month ago, even if it’s 150 people, it’s going to be able to provide energy to the players and hopefully give fans that are coming a little bit of a breakaway from the realities that are going on around them.”
For the majority of the fans that will not be able to attend the games in person, Cohen said they are working on coming-up with some unique fan engagement strategies for the remainder of the season.
The Rowdies have two home games to start this 15-game season, before hitting the road again. The biggest logistical challenge with that was figuring-out the safest mode of transportation for the team.
“We used to just be able to hop on a plane,” Cohen said. “Tampa International is one of the easiest airports to go in and out of– and we can get to pretty much every city we need to get to in a two or three hour time period, it’s now going to become a six to nine-hour journey. We’re going to take buses to every one of the different locations. Birmingham will be our longest trip at about eight and a half, nine hours, Charleston and Atlanta are about six and a half and Miami is about four. We just made the decision, myself and Neill, to sit down and see what’s really going to give us the best opportunity to be successful on the field but also control all the surrounding elements. We just felt like bus rides were the best for us this year.”
The Rowdies and Atlanta United 2 kick-off at 7:30 p.m. Saturday from Al Lang Stadium.