Thoughts on the firings of Thomas Rongen and Farrukh Quraishi

I heard the news around 4 AM. I’d been suffering a bout of insomnia and was about to go back to bed, but then someone retweeted WFLA’s Dan Lucas, breaking the news.

I hoped it was a hoax, though I knew it wasn’t. Another reporter tweeted a screen shot of what would turn out to be the verbatim press release issued a few hours later.

There was no going back to bed. So please forgive me if these thoughts aren’t as coherent as they should be. I’m tired and deeply upset, because I think very highly of Farrukh Quraishi and like Thomas Rongen very much.

My reaction goes beyond anger at the injustice visited upon two men whom I admire. I’m also angry about what it means for the future of the team. We’ve had two coaches fired in the span of less than a year, both times in a very sleazy manner. With Ricky Hill, it happened while the ink was barely dry on a three-year contract and it seems like everyone else knew before he did. With Rongen, we had a press release leaked to reporters in the middle of the night.

In the press release, Edwards calls himself a “fixer,” but firing your coach in the middle of the night, with no replacement lined up, isn’t a fix for anything. And then in a self-serving, tone-deaf video released later in the day, Edwards said his vision is limited to one year because “I’m seventy and who knows if I’ll be around for 5 more years.”

What coach in his right mind is going to want to sign on with this team now? No coach can have confidence that he’ll be able to implement his system and have time to develop players. No coach can have confidence that his contract means anything. What kind of coach can we hope to attract? The message Edwards has sent to the coaching community is that he can’t be trusted.

The message will also be heard throughout the larger U.S. Soccer community, where both Farrukh and Rongen are widely respected. The Rowdies name, which Farrukh worked so hard to polish, has been badly tarnished by this incident. Coaches are not the only ones who should be leery of associating with this team. So should players.

And so should fans. The owner has admitted that he has no long term plans beyond immediate ego gratification. Not only does he have no respect for people with decades of experience in soccer, he has no respect for the fans. If he isn’t interested in building a lasting team, then why should we be interested in continuing to support his vanity project?

Is it April Yet?

The Tampa Bay Rowdies held tryouts at the Walter Fuller sports complex this morning. The first 120 people who signed up were welcome to display their talent in the hope of landing an invitation to next weekend’s Rowdies Combine at Al Lang Field. Tryouts were free and open to the public to watch, so Carolyn and I went. We got there early, when hopefuls were still signing in, said hello to the team’s front office staff, and got seats for us and friends who would arrive later.

I was really looking forward to seeing Thomas Rongen in action. But I was surprised to get a closer look than that: Farrukh Quraishi, whom we had met a few years earlier through a mutual friend, brought Rongen over to us so we could meet him.

Farrukh Quraishi introduced me to Thomas Rongen at the Rowdies open tryouts on January 25, 2015

Rongen is a very down-to-earth, friendly man. His energy and enthusiasm is infectious. As he talked with us about his experience in American Samoa, as well as his plans for the Rowdies, I found myself becoming even more excited about the upcoming season. I hadn’t thought that was possible. I can hardly wait for the season to start in April.