The Tampa Bay Rowdies have exercised club options on four players from their 2015 team as their roster begins to take shape for the 2016 North American Soccer League season.
The Rowdies picked up options on defenders Darnell King and Zac Portillos, as well as midfielder Keith Savage and forward Darwin Espinal. These four players combined for 3,845 minutes of play last season.
King, a Tampa Bay native, made 27 appearances for his hometown club, including 25 starts. He transitioned from the opening-day right back to an excellent player on the right side of the midfield toward the end of the season. His speed and versatility will be assets for Rowdies head coach Stuart Campbell in the upcoming season.
Espinal, 20, impressed in his rookie season, earning the start on opening day on April 4 and scoring in his first-ever professional match. Just 20 years old, but with speed and technical prowess, Espinal scored four goals in 2015. Over the course of the year, Espinal earned a regular role with the Honduras Under-23 National Team, helping Los Catrachos qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. He was nominated for the 2015 NASL Young Player of the Year Award.
Portillos, another rookie, showed his speed and soccer IQ in preseason scoring a goal from the left back position against Portugal’s CD Fatima. The University of Akron alum earned a starting role in Tampa Bay’s first two matches of 2015. His rookie season was cut short by a right Achilles’ rupture suffered in training, but he recovered well and fully participated in training toward the end of the season.
Savage will return for his sixth season with Tampa Bay, where he is three matches short of 100 appearances with the Rowdies. Savage sustained a torn ACL in the Rowdies’ season-opening win in San Antonio on April 4, which ended his season. Like Portillos, the midfielder resumed training in the final weeks of the regular season.
Additional roster moves will be announced as they are finalized.