ST. PETERSUBRG, Fla. - The Tampa Bay Rowdies will play without their head coach and an assistant coach in this weekend’s USL Championship final.
The two men, along with a third member of the team’s “covered persons list” have tested positive for COVID-19.
“While I’ve been following all of the COVID protocols, I do not know how I contracted COVID,” said Tampa Bay Rowdies Head Coach, Niell Collins.
Speaking for the first time since his diagnosis, Collins is still figuring out what it means to lead the team from quarantine.
“We will make adjustments so that we can have an influence in the game, but I’m not quite sure what they will be yet,” Collins explained.
Collins, along with Assistant Coach Kevin Foley, and a third player or staff member with the franchise, all tested positive for COVID-19. With the championship trophy on the line, Assistant Coaches Stuart Dobson and Chad Burt will be on the sideline with the Rowdies when they take on Phoenix Rising FC Sunday night.
“I would love to be there to share it with the players, and staff, and the fans but this is part of a bigger picture and this is something that we’ve been building towards for two years, and it’s something that will last much longer than one night,” said Collins.
The Rowdies stormed through the Eastern Conference Playoffs, advancing to the championship for the first time since joining the league in 2017. The title match is being played on home turf, inside Al Lang Stadium with a sold-out, socially distant crowd of 1,500 fans.
“When the club performs well on Sunday evening, and hopefully win the game, I’ll feel just as I would if I were there, a great sense of satisfaction for everyone around the club,” Collins said.
Collins tells us he started feeling mild coronavirus symptoms Thursday. He, Foley, and the third person who contracted the virus are all isolating at home.
All 38 players and staff members on the Rowdies “covered persons list” had rapid COVID-19 tests done Friday morning. Everyone will all have another round of testing done Saturday.
The championship game kicks off at 8:30 p.m Sunday.