A swing and miss with the Rowdies

There's a first time for everything.

click to enlarge The view alone should convince MLS to make the move to Tampa Bay. - Colin O'Hara
Colin O'Hara
The view alone should convince MLS to make the move to Tampa Bay.

If the Rowdies are serious about making it to Major League Soccer, their first appearance in 2017’s Florida Cup didn’t show it.

The Rowdies were outclassed by Germany’s VfL Wolfsburg — who currently compete in their nation’s top league, the Bundesliga — and left much to be desired on the field and in the stands.

The match ended 2-0 in favor of zee Germans, mainly because the Rowdies could not finish any of the nearly half-dozen chances presented to them. They were outdone by Wolfsburg’s “B” team which consisted of their under-19 and under-20 team players. Basically, kids who aren't old enough to drink while on holiday here. Wolfsburg’s real team was busy training in Spain for the winter.

The Rowdies seemed to forget that they are supposed to showcase the support and talent in efforts to woo the bigwigs that head MLS. Instead, the match was played partially by unknown trialists and players returning from injury, hoping to make it on the regular squad.

We get it. It's preseason. But the hype surrounding this team needs to continue and not falter when people are watching.

The Rowdies’ crown jewel, Joe Cole, was seem warming up, but did not appear in the starting lineup.

Reports of concession stands running out of food also came from numerous hungry fans who found condolences and warmth in the alcohol they had to substitute for real nourishment.

Running out of food was surprising, considering the number of fans in attendance made Al Lang look more like the Trop on a Tuesday night rather than the much-anticipated big showing in the Rowdies’ first match since announcing MLS ambitions. The Rowdies' faithful and dedicated servants, also known as Ralph’s Mob, still bravely faced the elements, which included temperatures scarcely breaching 50 degrees at kickoff.

The Tampa team currently plays in the United Soccer League, which has recently been given provisional second-division status in America, making their move from the North American Soccer League a lateral one. The USL should feel like a walk in the park after facing the youth of Wolfsburg, but the club will need to make bigger strides before celebrating as the newest member of MLS.

Several positives came from Sunday’s match though.

The addition of an electronic sideboard bordering the field featuring advertising looked legit and professional. Honestly, that is about as close to MLS status as this team should be right now. It was also a real treat watching the Rowdies play in temperatures that didn’t resemble the surface of Venus. I’m sure the players felt the same; something I would have asked them if the Florida Cup had awarded me proper media clearance.

The Rowdies continue competing the Florida Cup with high ambitions. The next match will take place on Saturday, January 14 against Brazil’s Clube Atlético Mineiro at Al Lang Stadium. It would be in a Rowdies’ fan’s best interest to make this match a big one.