The way Maicon Santos looks at it, the task is fairly simple.
The Rowdies win by three. The Cosmos lose by three.
Okay, okay. It’s a big chore. The Tampa Bay Rowdies have only scored three goals in a game once all year, and they haven’t beaten anyone by that many. Still, it’s a shot, which no other team in the NASL has, so Tampa Bay will take it.
“It’s not impossible,” said forward Santos, the team’s leading scorer with three goals. “Yes, it’s going to be tough. We need the other result, too. But in soccer, things happen.”
Santos should know. He has followed this ball all over the world, from his native Brazil to Mexico to Libya to Tunisia to Israel to Canada to the United States.
“I love my job,” he said. “You see a lot of things. You learn a lot. It’s a huge experience.
“Playing here is like playing at home. Near the water. I love it here.”
Oh, Santos doesn’t like everything. Last week was no fun, for instance.
Santos sat out last week’s game after getting a red card – only the second of his career – in a tie with Indianapolis. For a man who makes his living on the pitch, that’s a tough week, sitting and watching your teammates play while you cannot. Imagine going to a birthday party and not getting to eat cake. It’s something like that.
But this week, against the Atlanta Silverbacks, Santos will be back. And he’ll join in the last-gasp effort to catch the Cosmos, who play against Jacksonville.
“I love my job, no matter what. I always do my best. It’s easy to do what I do. It’s been so much fun. You see a lot. You see a lot of different things. Huge experience.
“I always like to play,” Santos said. “We have a deep team that can perform and do well. But if you’re a player, you always want to be out there.”
For Santos, playing in front of the Tampa Bay crowd is always good. Some crowds, even soccer crowds, watch as if they’re at a play. Not this one.
“Every place is different,” Santos said. “But here, they push us. It’s great to play in front of them.”
Game time is 7:30 p.m. At Al Lang Field.