ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Tampa Bay Rowdies defender Forrest Lasso is the reigning USL Championship Defender of the Year, and he's considered one of the most consistent performers in the league. This year, Lasso decided to help make an impact off the field through his #PlayForMore fundraising campaign.
"This past preseason I asked my fans, my followers on social media, what was important to them. What charities, causes, and organizations resonated or hit home with them," Lasso said after Wednesday's practice.
He set up a scoring system where he donates $5 per game, $5 per shutout, and $1 per point earned by the Rowdies. Lasso then encourages his online followers to match his donations, and the money will be distributed to more than 30 worthy causes of his fans' choosing. He's more than halfway to the goal of $10,000.
"For people wanting to get together and help someone they don’t even know, it could be a complete stranger, is pretty special," he said.
Lasso, 28, joined Tampa Bay prior to the 2020 season. But he wasn't so sure he'd be headed to the Rowdies during his initial phone conversation with head coach Neill Collins. Collins, a native of Scotland, has a thick accent. Lasso said that didn't help his listening skills, especially in a place with plenty of background noise.
"I’m in Seattle’s airport," Lasso said with a grin. "My agent texts me and says 'Hey, Neill wants to speak.' I said 'Of course. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing. I’ll drop everything.'"
Lasso said that's when things started to go sideways.
"It’s about 30 seconds into the call, and I was pretty much just saying 'Yes, sir. Yes, sir.' I have no idea what I was saying yes to. I could’ve been signing my life away."
Coach Collins was pretty sure, but maybe not 100% sure, that Lasso was heading to Tampa Bay.
"I thought he was just a little bit standoffish," Collins laughed. "Yeah, that’s a great story. Forrest tells it well."
"Obviously, 18 months now, I pretty much understand everything he says. But at first, wooo," Lasso added.
Collins joked that his accent has been a bit of an issue away from the field as well.
"I had the same situation for many years with my mother-in-law. She would just say 'Yes,' then look at my wife.'"
Clearly, the Rowdies are communicating just fine this season. The number one overall seed in the playoffs, Tampa Bay hosts Louisville City FC this weekend. The winner heads to the league championship game.
"We’ve had 24 some-odd guys on the roster this year, and everyone’s played a huge part," Lasso said. "You can look at the results. Everyone’s started, played, contributed in some way or another. We got a really strong squad, and I think it’s been showing."
Kickoff between Tampa Bay and Louisville is set for Saturday at 7:30 p.m. from Al Lang Stadium.