Lasso, Rowdies poised for breakthrough season

Veteran Defender returns to win the one that got away.

Tampa Bay Rowdies defender Forrest Lasso (3) shoots past teammate JJ Williams (9) in practice this morning at their Tampa training complex. (Jamie Attard/Toronto Observer) 

TAMPA, Fla. – Forrest Lasso is back in Green and Gold, and he has some unfinished business.

After a season in Sweden with GIF Sundsvall, Lasso returns to Tampa Bay in pursuit of the one thing that eluded him in his previous stint with the Rowdies. A USL Cup Championship. 

“That’s why I’m back. To tell you the truth, there is nothing that means more to me than lifting that cup at the end of the year,” Lasso said.

The Raleigh, N.C., native played the 2020-21 seasons for Tampa Bay and in both his team won the Eastern Conference Championship. A COVID-19 outbreak in the Rowdies locker room canceled the 2020 USL Championship game only 24 hours prior to kickoff. The following year they lost 3-1 to Orange County SC in the 2021 USL Cup Championship game.

Prior to the 2022 season Lasso made the difficult decision to leave Tampa and fulfill one of his lifelong goals of playing in Europe, eventually signing with GIF Sundsvall. It was an opportunity that came up at the right time and one he knew he had to take advantage of.

“I was fortunate to have some success during my USL tenure and then I had the opportunity to go abroad. It was something that I knew in 20 or 30 years’ time, if I didn’t take the opportunity, I would regret it.

“So it was something I had to do for myself.”

Tampa Bay Rowdies defender Forrest Lasso poses after practice this morning at the team’s Tampa training complex. (Jamie Attard/Toronto Observer)

In Lasso’s absence the Rowdies once again made the Eastern Conference Finals but fell at the hands of Louisville City FC. 

In the offseason that followed, Rowdies Head Coach Neill Collins began to dissect what was his team lacked that kept them from reaching the Championship game for a third consecutive season. One of the answers came to him in the form of a familiar face. 

“Forrest was two-time defender of the year when he was here so that speaks for itself,” Collins said. “I think last year despite us not getting to the finals, we progressed as a team, but we definitely missed Forrest’s leadership. You can see the presence he’s got, he’s got a lot of enthusiasm that I just felt we needed to add back into the group.

“Alongside his obvious talent, I think it was more the things that people maybe don’t see and so we’re delighted to have him back.”

While there were multiple offers on the table, Lasso admits it was an easy decision to return to the place he calls home when he got word that the Rowdies once again desired his services.

“It’s humbling,” he said. “You always want to play somewhere you feel valued and respected by your coach, your teammates, the fans, the whole club.”

Now in his second stint with the team, Lasso feels it has what it takes to finally go all the way. The veteran defender is an essential piece to any success this team is going to achieve, and he’s as hungry and driven as ever to deliver. 

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Posted: Mar 21 2023 5:41 pm
Filed under: Soccer Sports