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Rowdies lose another despite new head coach Stuart Campbell’s debut

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One second, you are planning one thing. You are shaping and scheming. You are trying to help a team out of a hole.

And the next, everything changes. Suddenly, it is your team, and your game, and your opportunity.

Quick as that, life is on the counter-attack. Which is sort of the way Stuart Campbell’s week has gone.

All of the sudden, a new script has been written. Just like that, a game and a life have become a blur, and pulling the Tampa Bay Rowdies out of their slump has become your responsibility.

Just think of the week that Campbell had. His team loses on Saturday in Fort Lauderdale. His team loses on Wednesday. On Thursday, head coach Thomas Rongen and general manager Farrukh Quraishi are fired. On Saturday, he coaches his  first game.

That game had counter-attacks, too. The Rowdies fell victim to them twice in the second half of a 3-1 loss to Minnesota, a game that came only 48 hours after Campbell was named head coach. Tampa Bay held a 1-0 lead but could not hold on. The Rowdies are now 1-6-1 in their last eight games.

“Pretty much, I found out the same time as anyone,” Campbell said. “Firstly, I got on great with Thomas. I enjoyed working with him. So my thoughts were with him. But at the same time, it’s my job. It’s what I get paid for, to be a coach.”

Is he ready for this? “Yeah, I think so. I’m young (37), but I’ve got quite a bit of experience.”

Campbell catches himself. It didn’t feel proper to him to be talking about himself. He redirected the interview to his players, to the game just lost. But the fact remains that this is his team now, and he is the man who has to satisfy the hunger of owner Bill Edwards, who has talked about one year plans and winning championships.

“If we put in that effort and that commitment and that play, we’ll be fine,” Campbell said. “We’ll win more games than we lose.”

Will that be enough? Perhaps not, but it would be a start. The Rowdies have won one time in almost two months. They have scored only nine goals in nine games in the Fall Season. The team is in last place in the Fall.

“I feel a bit unfortunate and disappointed that we got caught by two counterattacks in the second half,” Campbell said. “It’s something we spoke about before the game and at halftime. We know Minnesota are very quick on the counter and they caught us twice.

“I can’t fault the guys’ effort and commitment,” Campbell said. “It was great. We played some pretty decent stuff and we created enough opportunities to win the game, but it wasn’t our night tonight. I’d have liked to see us move the ball a little bit quicker, but I understand it’s our third game in (eight days,) so I’ll accept that they had heavy legs.”

You might expect the Rowdies locker room to be stunned at the events of the week, but players say they have adjusted.

“Everyone’s fine,” Brian Shriver said. “It’s part of the business. We all know that. You can’t dwell on decisions made, whether it’s playing time, trades, firings. That’s not something we can control. Everyone here is a professional. We know that’s part of the business. It’s a quality locker room, and we’re going to be just fine.

Said Georgi Hristov: “It’s professional sports. We have to focus on the future, not the past. We have to move forward.”

The Rowdies travel to Ottawa for an afternoon game next week. They are home on Sept. 5 against the New York Cosmos.

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Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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