Tonight boots will touch pitch in the first meaningful soccer action of the year for the Rowdies. All 8 North American Soccer League teams will play tonight in the league’s inaugural opening day, including FC Tampa Bay tonight at 7. Their opponents, however, are not long for the young division 2 league. The Montreal Impact will be leaving the NASL and joining Major League Soccer come 2012. Montreal won both times these two teams met last season.
It will be Ricky Hill’s first game as the Rowdies’ head coach as well. In fact, there are a total of 12 new faces on the team’s roster that weren’t there last season including today’s captain Frankie Sanfillipo. Fellow recent addition Andres "The Wrangler" Arango (we’ll see if that nickname sticks) will miss the first two games of the season due to suspension from a red card he earned in his final match with former team Minnesota.
In another first, this will be the team’s first match at their new digs, Al Lang Field. The field has been adjusted to host soccer including the addition of grass over the clay area that once made up the infield for baseball events. For those of you who can’t make it out to the game tonight, the game will also be available 3 ways: WQYK 1010 sports on the radio, Bright House Sports Network on TV (J.B. Long will be doing the play-by-play for the BHSN coverage) and streaming online. There will also be a pre-game autograph session from 6:15 - 6:45 with former Rowdies Neill Roberts and Peter Ward, along with ESPN personality Rob Stone.
The Rowdies play 28 regular season games (2 home, 2 away against each team in the league) so let’s hope they get off to a strong start tonight against the Impact.