Rowdies' Depth Powering Rise to Top
As quickly as games are going to arrive during the current abridged regular season, maybe the most important thing a coach can have at his disposal is a squad filled with enough depth to carry a team through games on short rest over multiple days.
With an undefeated start to the season, that's a luxury the Tampa Bay Rowdies appear to have among the Championship's current group leaders. While the side is again getting strong production from captain Sebastian Guenzatti - who scored in his fourth consecutive game on Friday night in the club's 3-0 victory against Miami FC - the side has also had 16 different players start and another three appear off the bench so far this season.
"It's very hard as a coach to constantly tell 20 guys that their impact and their influence on the squad are as important as each other," said Rowdies Head Coach Neill Collins on Monday. "Players always put a value on if they're picked in the Starting 11, that their value is greater than someone who's coming off the bench. I think we're very fortunate with the squad we've got that we've got guys who are more than capable of starting games, but you can only pick 11."
Among those that have played what might be thought of as a supporting role is Max Lachowecki, who made his fifth appearance as a substitute in six games against Miami. But while that may be the perception, the trust that Lachowecki has from Collins and his teammates is reflected in his performance, most notably when he was brought on as a halftime substitute in a 1-1 draw on the road against Birmingham Legion FC, and then in the first half against Miami when Leo Fernandes had to be substituted after sustaining a knock in the 19th minute.
Lachowecki isn't just a good player, he's also one that can quickly attune himself to the rhythm of the game and get up to speed quickly, something that Collins values highly.
"One of the reasons we brought Max to the club is because we know whether starting or from the bench, his attitude and his mentality toward the game is the same," said Collins. "That's what we expect, but it is great that he's able to do it, because it is a talent, being able to come onto a game and pick it up. There are some players who either start or don't generally come on, they're just not used to it, but it is great, and it just makes my decisions harder."
For Lachowecki, the team is now starting to find its rhythm more consistently with five games completed since the season resumed. That's not only noticeable in the club's new-look defense - which has now recorded back-to-back shutouts, but the signs that other newcomers are starting to find their feet in the squad.
"We're growing in confidence every week," he said. "Now we're going on our fourth, fifth game after the break, guys are starting to figure one another out and where they're going to be on the field, and partnerships all over the field as well."
With a busy week ahead that features a contest against Atlanta United 2 on Wednesday night in Georgia before a return to Al Lang Stadium for a rematch with Miami on Sunday, the Rowdies' depth is going to be tested again in the next six days.
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