ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Rowdies have been on a hot streak for more than two months. They haven't lost a game since April 30th, and they're unbeaten in their last eight games. A big reason why has been the play of their defense.
Tampa Bay's giving up less than one goal per game during their current run. Rowdies defender Laurence Wyke is quick to credit the team's offense with making his job easier.
"Putting pressure up at the top of the field makes it easier. Less balls coming into our half. So we have to defend less because of that," Wyke said after practice. "So it’s a whole team thing we’ve kinda been working on, tactically. Pressing the right areas. Positioning ourselves to succeed."
Wyke played midfield for the Rowdies last season, but head coach Neill Collins asked him to move back to his natural position on defense this year. Wyke's been named to the USL Championship Team of the Week twice this season.
Collins said teams in the USL Championship don't have big rosters, so they value versatile players like Wyke in order to win.
"You need to have players like Laurence that can plug in and play to such a high standard. I take my hat off to him. He adapts so well," Collins said. "No matter where we put him, he’s been excellent. Long may it continue. He’s having a great season."
Wyke said Collins' coaching philosophy and his own experience as a defender are the reasons he knows this is the right situation for him to be in.
"I know they’re a winning side, and they push for excellence," Wyke added. "That’s the reason why I came here. I just wanted to be a better player. I think it’s definitely paying off. It’s great to be with such great players and improving every day, as a team."
The 25-year-old native of England is glad to be a part of the Rowdies locker room, and he's also excited to be closer to his new, favorite American sports team: the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"I just loved how intense it was. They’re all after it," Wyke said. "I find a lot of the other American sports are kinda stop-start. Whereas that is just full-go. I love it. Shout out to the Lightning. I’m here for tickets if you’ve got any."
The Rowdies (9-3-6) will try to extend their unbeaten streak Saturday night when they travel to Connecticut for a 7 P.M. date with Hartford Athletic (4-9-4).