The Seattle Sounders traveled many miles — although not back in time — for their match today against the Tampa Bay Rowdies.
Teams with those names originally were rivals in the old North American Soccer League from 1975 until 1983, after which both limped on through lesser leagues or ceased operations before the current teams were reconstituted under those historic names.
Now, the fates have paired the Sounders and Rowdies again in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup.
“It was always an exciting game because they were almost the most popular team in the North American Soccer League with their yellow-and-green uniforms,” said Alan Hinton, who faced the original Rowdies as player and coach in the NASL. “(They were) very popular in England because of Rodney Marsh, who was one of England’s favorite sons playing and then coaching. My memory of the Tampa Bay Rowdies, all my teams did well against them.”
Current Sounders coach Sigi Schmid hopes that is the case again at 4:30 p.m. today when the first-division Sounders and second-division Rowdies meet at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, Fla.
The original Rowdies were born in 1975 — one year behind the Sounders — and won the NASL Soccer Bowl in that
inaugural season. The club survived until the league folded in 1984. After that, the name lived on in lesser indoor and outdoor leagues until 1993.
The name resurfaced in 2008 as a second-division club: first with the USL and then with the new NASL. The new Rowdies also retain the traditional distinct green-and-gold shoulder stripes on the home and away kits.
“They’ve built a solid team here,” Schmid said Tuesday on a conference call from Florida. “The field is small. It’s only 105 by 70 (yards). It’s a little bit bumpy, so it’s going to be (important) for the guys to concentrate on their first touch. We were doing practice today and somebody tried to swing a cross and it took a little bit of a jump on what would have been home plate and popped over his foot. It will be an interesting game from that standpoint as well.”
These Rowdies play at Al Lang Stadium, the longtime home of minor league and Grapefruit League baseball. The original Rowdies played across the bay at Tampa Stadium, then home of the NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“There’s a lot of history that was here, and there was a lot of quality soccer that was played here and they had some great crowds,” Schmid said. “Really, at the beginning of MLS when Tampa Bay had a team (the Mutiny), I think everybody was hoping that that Rowdies magic would come back, and it just didn’t catch hold for some reason. Maybe … it will again; because just like Seattle, I think there’s a great history there, and if they can tap into that and use everything that’s new, it might be a great franchise in the future.”
The current Tampa Bay roster includes a couple of Northwest connections: midfielder Raphael Cox of Tacoma and defender Daniel Scott, who is the brother of Sounders defender Zach Scott.
Cox attended Stadium High School, Highline Community College and the University of Washington. He went on to play for the PDL Tacoma Tide, MLS Colorado and Salt Lake, and last season faced the Sounders in the 2012 Open Cup as a member of the Atlanta Silverbacks.
Daniel Scott also has played against his brother and the Sounders, in the 2011 Open Cup as a member of the PDL Kitsap Pumas.
“To be honest, it’s like any other game,” Zach Scott said. “He wants to win. I want to win. It’s nothing personal. We’ll shake hands and hug after the game, but when you’re on the field it’s just any other person.”