The Tampa Bay Rowdies stunned the soccer community on Friday when they announced Rowdies president and general manager Farrukh Quraishi
and head coach Thomas Rongen
, both popular figures on the national and local soccer scene, had been fired. But the moves did not surprise the man who made them. "We had a difference
of opinion," Rowdies owner Bill Edwards told the Tampa Bay
. "We didn't agree on much of anything. That was the problem."
NASL 2015: Standings
The moves came less than 48 hours after a 2-0 loss at last-place Indy Eleven left
the Rowdies with a 2-5-1 record in the fall standings or what the Rowdies described in their release as "a terribly disappointing start to the fall season."
The reality, though, was the
Rowdies were fourth in the combined standings and therefore in place to advance to the NASL playoffs. The spring and fall champions automatically qualify for the playoffs but in 2014 the NASL added
two more teams to the playoffs -- the next two teams with the best record in the combined standings. The Rowdies went 5-1-4 in the spring standings -- second behind the New York Cosmos -- and were in
fourth place, two points ahead of FC Edmonton with a game in hand.
Quraishi had been the No. 1 pick of the original Tampa Bay Rowdies and helped them win the original Soccer Bowl in 1975.
He and Rongen had been the GM and head coach, respectively, of MLS's Tampa Bay Mutiny for its launch in 1996. Both were hired by Edwards for the 2015 NASL season. The Rowdies recently signed Freddy Adu
, who played for Rongen on the U.S. U-20s.
Edwards took over control of the Rowdies after the end of the 2013 NASL season and put $2 million
worth of improvements and renovations into Al Lang Stadium -- the famous spring training baseball stadium -- in downtown St. Petersburg before the start of the 2015 season.
hoped for a change in fortunes with a coaching change, it did not happen. Under Stuart Campbell
, promoted from assistant coach to interim head coach, the
Rowdies dropped a 3-1 decision to Minnesota United FC at Al Lang Stadium after leading 1-0 in the first half. The loss dropped Tampa Bay into last place in the fall standings but it is still fourth in
the combined standings, two points ahead of F. Lauderdale and FC Edmonton.
from Rongen and Quraishi: "The stakes are always high in professional sports. On Thursday, Rowdies owner Bill Edwards decided to fire us. As veterans
with a combined 78 years in soccer as players, coaches, and executive managers, we understand that is his prerogative and it goes with the territory. "We have no regrets. We appreciate the financial investment that Bill has made in the team. We enjoyed a beautiful stadium in which to
play, with a locker room that is first-class in every respect. While it is true that we had a difference of opinion about how the club should be managed, he writes the checks, and he made significant
financial investments. "But it takes more than money to build a culture of winning, and
that was our goal. We attempted to rebuild the squad from the ground up, with the understanding that this can take time. We are very proud of the locker room chemistry to which the players and staff
contributed, but of course the end goal is to win games and championships. We believe this squad has what it takes to do that and we’ll be pulling for them all the way. "It is important to note that if the playoffs began today, the Tampa Bay Rowdies would qualify by
virtue of our combined points total from the Spring and Fall seasons. The team is currently in fourth place, tied on points with the third place team, Minnesota United, the opponents in today’s
home game. The good news is there is a lot of parity in the NASL and every game is competitive. The bad news is that we have been relieved of our duties 18 games into a 30 game season with more work
to do. "Being fired in such a public way is also part of the deal when you compete as a
professional. But what we could not have predicted is the avalanche of well wishes, support and encouragement that has come our way. It won’t get us our jobs back but it sure helps cushion the
fall. Thank you for every word you have written and shared. Thank you for being the friends and fans who showed up, bought tickets, cheered, played music and proudly wore the green and yellow. It has
made all the difference – and that goes with us."
Edwards' statement: “I wish both Farrukh and Thomas well, but it was
clear the team was not performing at the level they should be and could be. My goal from day one has been to win the NASL Soccer Bowl Championship. That has not changed. "As many in the community know, I am a fixer. I take broken things and do my best to turn them
around. That was the case with Baywalk/Sundial, Mahaffey Theater and the Club at Treasure Island, among others. This is no different. When I identify a problem, I move swiftly and decisively to
correct it. And I stand by my decisions. With the Rowdies, I felt it was important to make these changes now, while we still have time to improve our record for the fall season and secure a spot in
the playoffs. "It is important to note that I do believe we have great players, certainly
capable of winning the championship. I will work with them and the remaining coaching staff to ensure they have what they need to succeed. Decisions like these are never easy, but I hope this move
shows both the players and the fans that my commitment to creating a world-class professional soccer experience remains undaunted.”