TAMPA, Fla. – Tampa Bay Rowdies’ striker Cal Jennings credits his time with two highly sought stars with whom he won an MLS Cup with last season for his understanding of what bringing that championship mentality to the Rowdies does for the team.
International superstars Carlos Vela and Gareth Bale have helped Tampa’s new striker elevate his performance on the pitch.
“It [was] really cool because you get to see some of the guys at the top of the game and at the top of the league,” Jennings said at the team’s practice facility. “Everybody is a different player but there’s a lot you can learn from a Carlos Vela, how he uses his body [and] the spaces he finds.
“Gareth Bale, obviously you know he’s a great finisher [and] in the right spots when he needs to be, so, you really pick up a lot of little things that you try to use for your own game in particular.”
The Atlanta native realizes that while dissecting those skills and learning from those players was a great opportunity, it’s time for the 25-year-old to put those lessons into action.
“I [have to] get on the score sheet, so, I [have to] score lots of goals and I [have to] find ways to create opportunities for my team,” said Jennings, who has played for three United Soccer League teams. “I have big expectations for myself, but I also have to find time to go, ‘OK, there’s little parts of my game as well.’
The defending, the positioning, [and] my hold-up play that I need to improve on if I’m [going to] thrive here and then continue to thrive throughout my career.”
Rowdies’ head coach Neill Collins recognizes the value of what adding a championship calibre player like Jennings does for his squad.
“I know he’s got big goals and we’re going to help him achieve them,” Collins said. “I think his MLS experience is good, but I think it’s more his desire to get back there, [and we] want to fuel that.”