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Rowdies announce return of Forrest Lasso

By Staff, 01/13/23, 12:00PM EST


Three-time Championship Defender of the Year signs for second spell with Tampa Bay

Three-time USL Championship Defender of the Year Forrest Lasso is set for his second stint with the Tampa Bay Rowdies after re-joining the club for the 2023 season. | Photo courtesy Matt May / Tampa Bay Rowdies

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – One of the biggest names in the USL Championship’s history is returning to the league.

The Tampa Bay Rowdies announced on Friday the club had signed center back Forrest Lasso ahead of the 2023 season, bringing back the three-time USL Championship Defender of the Year to the squad. The transaction is pending league and federation approval.  

Tampa Bay acquired the 29-year-old from Swedish side GIF Sundsvall, where he spent 2022 playing in Sweden’s top tier. Per club policy, the terms of the deal to bring the veteran defender back were undisclosed.

“My job is to constantly look at how we get better, and we can be successful,” said Rowdies Head Coach Neill Collins. “When someone like Forrest becomes available, I think I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t make sure we were in line to make his return a possibility. We all know how successful Forrest was here. That was in large part due to the people Forrest had around him and the environment he was in. I think we both recognized that. We definitely missed some of the things that Forrest brought at times last year. We look forward to bringing that back into the fold.”

Lasso was an essential piece of Tampa Bay’s two Eastern Conference title victories in 2020 and 2021, anchoring the club’s back line to 24 shutouts in 55 league appearances. In 2021, Lasso helped guide the defense to a record-setting 891-minute shutout streak as the club went on to finish with the best regular season record in the league.

“As soon as my wife and I touched down in Tampa, we’ve been smiling ear to ear,” said Lasso. “It feels like home. It just feels right.

“Playing for the Rowdies the two years that I did and now being able to come back, it’s special. It’s a club and system that makes you feel valued and respected. You’ve got your best friends in the locker room with you. If you have these few things, going out on the pitch and getting results is kind of easy at that point. To come back here and have that camaraderie again is amazing.”

A native of North Carolina, Lasso played college soccer at Wofford College before making his professional debut in the Championship with the Charleston Battery in 2015. After three seasons with the Battery, earning his first Championship All-League First Team honor in his final season in 2017, Lasso made the move to FC Cincinnati in 2018. That year, Lasso won his first Championship Defender of the Year award as Cincinnati claimed the regular season title. Lasso remained with Cincinnati when the club moved to Major League Soccer in 2019, making five appearances before being sent on loan in the Championship to Nashville SC for the remainder of the year.

While competing at numerous clubs in the Championship during his career, Lasso’s high level hasn’t faltered. Between his first selection with the Battery in 2017 and his second year with the Rowdies in 2021 he was voted to the Championship’s All-League First Team on five consecutive occasions. He’s currently the lone player in league history to achieve such a run.

Over the five seasons, Lasso led the Championship with 671 clearances and ranked second in aerial duels won with 455 during the regular season, with the 6-foot-5 veteran also notching 149 interceptions defensively and success rates of 67.7 percent in duels and 75 percent in aerial duels.

Lass also recorded 14 goals and four assists in 115 appearances over the same span, and is now looking forward to returning to be a key piece in the Rowdies’ challenge to claim their first USL Championship title.

“I’ve been here for two years but now I’m also a new guy,” said Lasso. “Things change, things adapt, clubs evolve. I’m just gonna come in and try to do what I can to help the squad. We want to win a lot of games. We don’t want to concede a lot of goals. I don’t think it’d be naive for us to say our goals are an Eastern Conference Championship, a regular-season championship, and a USL Championship. Obviously, that’s pretty far away. We’ve gotta focus on one game at a time.”

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