There are new faces. There is a new league. There is new energy.
But for the Tampa Bay Rowdies, the burning question is simple:
Will they be better than they were a year ago?
For the Rowdies, whose roster is almost complete, that is the burning question. The Rowdies were only ninth in the NASL a year ago, going 9-12-11.
This year, however, the Rowdies are in the USL.
This year, however, the Rowdies will have star midfielder Joe Cole for the entire season.
This year, however, they have five newcomers, all of them young players to complete in a faster league. For instance, there is new signee Darwin Jones, who spent part of last season with the MLS champion Seattle Sounders. Jones joins Georgi Hristov, the returning leading scorer from last year.
The Rowdies spurred a lot of interest this off-season when they talked of their ambitions to expand Al Lang Stadium and to join the MLS. That energy, the team hopes, will also show on the field
The defense still figures to be the backbone of the Rowdies. Goaltender Matt Pickens is back, as are defenders Tamika Mkandawire, Darnell King and Neill Collins, among others (including signee Damion Lowe). The midfield is led by Cole, Keith Savage and Martin Vingaard. Newly signed Alex Morrell will blend in.