ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (FOX 13) - There is no doubt that building a championship-winning team takes time, and that's what second-year Rowdies Coach Neill Collins intends to do.
Thirteen countries are represented on this year's roster; 16 of the 24 players on the roster are new additions since last season.
"The guys returning, they've been really, really important. They know how we work. They know what we want to do. The guys that have come in have been really receptive, they try to implement every one. It's just going to get easier over time. We hope a quarter of this group can be together 2-3 years and we can build a proper team," said Collins.
They'll be building it with a younger corps of players, too. Gone is Georgi Hristov, the Rowdies' all-time leader in scoring, who retired last year. All but one player is in their 20s, and with that youth, comes a different kind of advantage.
"They've got a fearlessness about them. They've got a carefree attitude, in the right way," explained Collins. "They want to do well, just no fear, which I like. I think it wasn't by luck, it was by design. We needed a younger and a fresher and a hungrier team and that's certainly what we've got."
"We're young, we're hungry. We want to win," said Yann Ekra, a midfielder. "Every time we step foot on the field, practice or game, we want to give everything."
Last season was a letdown for the Rowdies. Finishing 11-8-15, the team failed to make the USL's postseason. Under the direction of Collins - in his first full season - the Rowdies already have a win under their belt, and that first game could be what sets the tone for the rest of the season.
"It brings confidence, but we want to take it game-by-game," said Papé Diakité, a defender. "Every game is not the same. We forget about the previous one, and we move to the next one."
The next one is Saturday night against Pittsburgh back home at Al Lang Stadium.