NASL Notebook: Rowdies/São Paulo Deal, League-wide Gold Cup Call Ups, More

IMAGE, TAMPA BAY ROWDIES

by JAKE NUTTING
NASL Beat Writer

Rowdies Look to New Partners for Academy Guidance

On Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Rowdies announced a partnership with São Paulo FC, one of Brazil’s most well-known club teams.

North American teams partnering with influential foreign clubs is not new, but this specific type of extensive deal is unique to the modern NASL. Like a lot of past deals of this kind, the partnership includes exhibitions played in both markets. However, the deal also includes cross promotion through in-stadium advertising to encourage tourism in both regions, an exchange program for coaching and technical staff, offseason and midseason training in São Paulo, and a two-way road for young players between the clubs.

Head Coach Thomas Rongen stated at the press conference that discussions to send Tampa Bay’s five youngest players for a month-long training stint with São Paulo were underway.

The connection to a historic club alone can certainly help the Rowdies make strides in improving their public perception in a  finicky and crowded sports market. The breadth of the deal has the possibility of aiding the team in establishing stronger roots. Principal owner Bill Edwards stated at the press conference that the Rowdies will lean on their new partners for advice when building a “charter school” and academy for high school aged boys and girls in Tampa Bay. Edwards hopes to have the school set up by 2016.

While NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson has been vocal about the positive strides that clubs in the league have taken toward youth development, only a few have actually spoken about forming true academies of their own. Thus far, the Rowdies are the only NASL team to reveal such a quick academy timeline.

NASL Squad Depth Will Be Tested By Gold Cup

Having international caliber players on your roster is both a blessing and a curse in North American Soccer. The higher quality of players raises your level on the field, but because the U.S. based leagues play through summers when international tournaments occur, teams risk losing out on their best players when national teams come calling. That’s the predicament seven NASL teams will have to deal with for the first month of the Fall Season when they each lose a player to the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Edmonton may be hurt the most by the Gold Cup call ups. The Canadian side will be without its most productive player Lance Laing who will suit up for Jamaica. Laing is near the top of the league in both goals and assists with four of each.

Fort Lauderdale’s James Marcelin, Atlanta’s Steward Ceus, and Jacksonville’s Pascal Millien will all suit up for the Haitian national team in the tournament. Ceus buoyed a strong defense for much of the Spring Season and Millien is his club’s leading scorer.

Meanwhile, the Salvadorian national squad has called up New York’s Andre Flores and Tampa Bay’s Richard Menjivar. The Rowdies losing Menjivar while they are still trying to establish a consistent starting midfield could be a big blow.

Ottawa will be without their midfield shepherd Julian de Guzman as well. The Fury posted a good defensive record, but still struggled to move up the points table and finished third from the bottom in the Spring.

Exit Looks Imminent Fort Lauderdale’s Leo Moura

It seems the uplifting comeback win over Minnesota United in the Spring Season finale was not enough to settle some of the turmoil for the Fort Lauderdale Strikers. A report from 90minutesstrong.com states that Leo Moura, the club’s most high-profile signing in the offseason, is on the verge of departing.

The original report was that Moura would leave for Vasco da Gama, with that club’s president announcing the signing on Monday. However, that announcement was premature and Moura now looks close to joining Coritiba and would just need to pass a physical.

All this may seem surprising to Strikers supporters who believed Moura was under a three-year contract with the team. However, according to the recently departed Strikers Soccer Director Andre Chavez, Moura’s contract includes an opt-out clause if he receives an offer from outside the United States.

The 36-year-old Brazilian had a rocky Spring Season. After starting out strong, he and the rest of the squad quickly faded to the bottom of the NASL scrum. Moura finished the season with less than 800 minutes played, two goals, and two assists.

FC Edmonton Adds Depth at Midfield

The Eddies are hopeful that recent additions Pablo Cruz and Thiago de Freitas will play pivotal roles as they hope to match their terrific Fall Season form in 2014. Cruz, 23, is an attacking midfielder that has spent the last three years with Atlanta and San Antonio. Head coach Colin Miller has had his eye on Cruz for a while and believes he’s a player that can pick up some slack in the attack as the club will be without the dynamic Lance Laing during the Gold Cup.

Freitas’ big responsibility will be curbing the poor turnover rate that Edmonton produced in the Spring Season. The inability to maintain possession was a big reason why the Eddies were the leakiest defense in the league, conceding 22 goals in only 10 games. Freitas is a Brazilian who has spent time in Israel but most recently played half a season in Greece’s second division. The signings of Cruz and de Freitas mean the Eddies have filled all seven international roster spots.

Edmonton also announced that they have released midfielder Chad Burt. The club states that the decision was mutual. Burt made 20 appearances and scored three goals for Edmonton after joining the team in 2014.

Peiser’s Shutout Streak Earns Him NASL Player of the Month

Ottawa’s Romuald Peiser was named the NASL Player of the Month for June earlier this week after posting shutouts against the San Antonio Scorpions and Jacksonville Armada FC. Peiser’s excellent form, though, extends farther back than the month of June.

The French keeper finished the Spring Season with a shutout streak of 526 minutes, which is a modern NASL record. The last time he conceded a goal was against the New York Cosmos on May 2 in a 1-0 defeat.

In total, Peiser posted six clean sheets in 10 Spring matches, conceded only eight goals, and recorded a league-leading 28 saves. His Goals Against Average of 0.8 is also a league-best.

  • Jin Old-Boy

    I’m happy for the Rowdies. The more academies our professional clubs have, the better it is for our player development.