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THE MORNING TEA – Key Principals Guide Rowdies’ Collins on Spot Kicks

By NICHOLAS MURRAY -, 10/30/20, 7:30AM EDT


LouCity’s Spencer makes move to club’s Academy set-up; Phoenix’s Lubin at forefront of playoff run

The Tampa Bay Rowdies haven’t been pushed to a penalty shootout yet this postseason, but in Head Coach Neill Collins they have someone who can guide them through with his own experiences from his playing career if the 2020 Championship Final heads to the spot. Here’s your Morning Tea for Friday.



Here’s a trivia question Tampa Bay Rowdies Head Coach Neill Collins likes to ask.

“Who’s scored the second-most penalty kicks in history in [penalty] shootouts for Sheffield United?”

When the person posed the question – on Tuesday, my friend Dan Lucas of WFLA – replies with Collins’ name, Collins reveals the answer. Sort of.

“Nope, I was the first. I don’t know who was second.”

You can find evidence of Collins’ prowess from the spot through the magic of the internet. Here he is, calm and composed for Sheffield United in the EFL League One Playoffs in 2012 against Huddersfield Town at Wembley Stadium.

There won’t be 52,000 fans in the stands at Al Lang Stadium on Saturday night, but the potential for the game to be settled in the pressurized atmosphere of a penalty shootout is something that both Collins’ Rowdies and their opponents Phoenix Rising FC have had to account for in their road to the 2020 Championship Final on Sunday night (8:30 p.m. ET | ESPN).

For the Rowdies, it’s been a relatively calm preparation as goalkeeper Evan Louro gets the chance to try and pick up on potential tells from shooters and the players taking the shots themselves look to build confidence. For Collins, though, going through the motions in practice is one thing, doing it with a game on the line is quite another.

“You can never replicate the nerves and the feeling of an actual penalty shootout,” he said. “You take one or two to get an idea of your tendencies, but honestly in the first two or three games we’ve been so focused on getting the job done in the 90 minutes as well, we’ve really put such an emphasis on that.”

Phoenix, on the other hand, has already had to battle through a pair of shootouts, and one of their current center backs has been one of their money shooters, just as Collins was for the Blades in his career. Joey Farrell has gone 3-for-3 from the spot for Rising FC in shootouts over the past two seasons and was also successful for the Rochester Rhinos in their penalty shootout against the New York Red Bulls II in the 2016 postseason.

Not bad for someone who’s not taken a penalty kick during a regular season or postseason penalty kick in his career.

“My main strategy is to get up there and tune everything else out,” said Farrell. “I kind of hum along with the fans if our supporters are in the crowd, I make sure I take a deep breath and then I do what I do every day in training, just strike the ball, try and find a corner and hopefully the goalie goes the wrong way.

“For me, it’s all about calmness when you’re standing up there. Stand up there with almost nothing to lose and you’ll benefit from that because you’ll have that ability to strike the ball confidently and purely.”

The Rowdies haven’t had experience with penalty shootouts so far, winning all of their games in regulation to reach their first Championship Final.

If the side is looking for a good omen should the game be decided from the spot, though, it can look to eight years ago this past Monday when former goalkeeper Jeff Attinella – now of the Portland Timbers – was the hero in a shootout as the club won the first title of its modern era against the Minnesota Stars on its home turf.

“We’ll make sure we’re prepared,” said Collins. “I took penalties, and a lot of it’s down to my dad, he talked to me about the principals of taking your time, spotting the ball, just basic things, and we’ll try to make sure the guys try and do all those things, but I think every coach is going to say we’re going to try and get the job done in normal time, and if not in extra time, and if it comes to penalties we’ll deal with that as and when it happens, and we’ll be prepared as well as anyone possibly can be.”





- Phoenix Rising FC goalkeeper Zac Lubin hasn’t just been key to his side in penalty shootouts this postseason, with his play in regulation and extra time also key to its advancement to Sunday’s Championship Final. Arizona Sports’ Jake Anderson broke down an MVP-caliber postseason so far for the veteran of two prior title games.

- Rising FC midfielder Kevon Lambert and defender Damion Lowe have both been included in Jamaica’s squad to take on Saudi Arabia in a pair of exhibition games in the Saudi capital Riyadh in November.

- The Charleston Battery’s Nico Rittmeyer will link up with the Guatemala National Team next week for a weeklong training camp that begins its preparations for an exhibition against Honduras on November 15. The call-up is Rittmeyer’s first for Los Chapines and comes after the end of his fourth season with the Battery.

- Hartford Athletic announced on Thursday it had retained 95 percent of its corporate partners this year despite the pandemic. The Athletic’s founding sponsors including Trinity Health of New England, Stanley Black and Decker, Cigna, The Hartford and Travelers continued to host team events and fundraisers throughout the season.

- Louisville City FC forward Luke Spencer’s full-time move to become a coach in the club’s Academy program was announced on Wednesday, bringing the curtain down on his five-year professional career. Spencer spent the past four seasons with LouCity as a player, and scored the game-winning goal in the 2018 Championship Final.

- New Mexico United’s Troy Lesesne has been nominated for the Championship’s Coach of the Year while Kaley Ryden has been nominated for Defender of the Year as the league announce its Awards Finalists on Thursday. The Albuquerque Journal has more on the announcement.

- Sacramento Republic FC’s Hayden Sargis was nominated for the Championship’s Young Player of the Year award, continuing a stellar first professional season for the 18-year-old. Indomitable City Soccer’s Alicia Rodriguez has more on the latest piece of news for the talented youngster.

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