Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Rowdies vs. FC Edmonton

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (July 18, 2015) -- For the first time in the Thomas Rongen era, the Tampa Bay Rowdies have lost a match at Al Lang Stadium. FC Edmonton will depart as 1-0 winners, courtesy of a Stefan Antonijevic own goal in the 56th minute.
The Eddies had a corner kick in the 56th minute, which found Mallan Roberts' head at close range. Rowdies goalkeeper Matt Pickens made a point-blank reaction save to deny Roberts, but the ball bounced directly to Antonijevic on the ground and caromed into the net to give the Eddies the decisive score.
"I haven't lost too many (like that,)" Rowdies Head Coach Thomas Rongen said. "You don't see that very often, it's not a play that happens anywhere in the world. We had a very good first half, but again, weren't able to put the team away. We have two or three good opportunities and don't capitalize it. We gave up a goal that could have been prevented."
Despite the loss, the Rowdies remain atop the NASL Combined Standings on 22 points, one ahead of the New York Cosmos in second place.
Tampa Bay dominated the first half possession and scoring chances, but couldn't find the finishing touch, finishing without a goal from the second consecutive match. The Rowdies could've opened the scoring just seven minutes into the match when midfielder Brian Shriver beat Eddie Edward one-on-one and got to the endline for a cross, but no Rowdies were available to tap it home.
Facing heavy pressure and tired from three matches in eight days, Edmonton sat deep in its own half to defend and Tampa Bay just couldn't find a way through.
The Eddies' goal, barely 10 minutes into the second half, lifted the visitors and gave them a second wind. 
"I did enough to get (Roberts) out of position and Matt made a great save, but the unfortunate happened," Antonijevic said of the only goal of the match. "It ricocheted off my face and into the goal. That's how soccer goes sometimes. You might be the better team on the field, statistically, but what matters is the end result. Today, we were the better team, but we didn't put away what we had to put away and they scored one and that's all they needed."
Tampa Bay's second half saw a flurry of chaotic scoring chances, but the only time the Rowdies actually found the back of the net, the goal was waived off due to offside.
Rowdies forward Maicon Santos appeared to have scored an equalizing goal in the 89th minute after a series of headers in the box, but he scored from an offside position and the goal was waived off.

Scoring Summary:
Edmonton: Mallan Roberts (56th minute)

Rowdies: Pickens; King, Mkandawire (c), Antonijevic, Sweat; Guerra, Shriver (Hristov 61'), Núñez (Boggs 80'); Hernandez, Hertzog (Santos 61'), Espinal
FC Edmonton: Van Oekel; Moses, Watson (c), Roberts, Edward; Grannito; Nonni (Cruz 74'); de Freitas (Zebie 81'), Raudales, Smith; Jalali (Jonke 74')

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Rowdies vs. San Antonio Scorpions

SAN ANTONIO, Tex. (July 11, 2015) – The Tampa Bay Rowdies saw their eight game unbeaten run snapped Saturday night with a 3-0 loss to the San Antonio Scorpions. An early goal by midfielder Marvin Chavez and a brace from forward Omar Cummings gave the home side the victory.
Despite the result, the Rowdies remain first in the Combined NASL Standings.
"We need to bounce back after tonight's loss," said Head Coach Thomas Rongen. "We're still first in the combined standings so I know this team has the quality to get back on a winning streak."
A great start by the Rowdies featured two quick chances for the visiting team as both midfielder Brian Shriver and forward Darwin Espinal had opportunities to score the first goal of the match, though neither chance was converted.
An 11th minute Chavez put the home team ahead early. As the clock passed the 10th minute mark, Chavez received a ball from Cummings and cut inside to get by a Rowdies defender and create space. His shot curled past a diving Rowdies goalkeeper Matt Pickens to conclude a perfect counter attack.
After going down 1-0, the Rowdies almost found the equalizer in the 16th minute as forward Corey Hertzog capitalized on a defensive mistake and went one-on-one with Scorpions goalkeeper Matt Cardone. Hertzog curled a shot as he entered the 18-yard box, but Cardone made a diving save to his left. 
As the Rowdies continued to try to find ways to score, Pickens denied Cummings in the 39th minute pn a shot from inside the 6-yard box. A perfectly executed counter attack left Cummings one-on-one with Pickens, with the Rowdies keeper going down fast to deny the forward the goal.
The second half started the same way as the first 45 minutes, with the Rowdies controlling possession and trying to create chances in the final third. Forward Robert Hernandez nearly tied it up in the 53rd minute after forcing Cardone to make a diving save to rob the Venezuelan the goal.
Despite controlling the ball, it was another counter attack that led to the Scorpions second goal of the night. In the 54th minute, Midfielder Billy Forbes beat defender Darnell King down the right side and fired a low cross into the 6-yard box. His perfectly placed cross found Cummings inside the box, who tapped it past Pickens to make it 2-0.
Minutes later, Cummings bagged his second of the night after receiving a through ball from midfielder Rafael Castillo and slotting his shot past Pickens.
With midfielder Georgi Hristov and forward Maicon Santos coming in off the bench, the Rowdies were able to create chances to cut the lead, but were unable to find the back of the net. In the 81st minute, Santos had a great individual run to send in a low cross into the box, but forward Zak Boggs skied his shot from six yards out. One minute later, it was Santos himself who had the chance, but Cardone dove to his right to keep the shutout alive.
"We look forward to playing in front of our amazing fans next Saturday," Rongen said. "We're unbeaten at home and I stressed to the team that it's important that it stays that way. Al Lang is a fortress for us and we enjoy playing there."

Scoring Summary:
San Antonio: Marvin Chavez - 11th minute (assisted by Omar Cummings)
San Antonio: Omar Cummings - 54th minute (assisted by Billy Forbes)
San Antonio: Omar Cummings - 61st minute (assisted by Rafael Castillo)

Scorpions: Cardone; DeRoux, Cann (c), James, Gibson; Forbes, Castillo, Nane, Chavez; Cummings (Hassli 81'), Elizondo (Soto 69')
Rowdies: Pickens; King, Antonijevic, Mkandawire (c), Sweat; Guerra, Shriver (Hristov 63'), Núñez; Hernandez (Santos 63'), Hertzog, Espinal (Boggs 78')

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Rowdies vs. Atlanta Silverbacks

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (July 4, 2015) — The Tampa Bay Rowdies started the 2015 North American Soccer League Fall Season the same way they ended the Spring Season three weeks earlier -- with a win over the Atlanta Silverbacks at Al Lang Stadium.
Each side benefitted from an own goal in the opening first half, but it was Darnell King's goal in the 30th minute that lifted the Rowdies to a 2-1 win over the Silverbacks on Saturday night in front of 7,002 fans in downtown St. Petersburg.
The win lifted the Rowdies into first place in the NASL Combined Standings, two points ahead of the New York Cosmos, who play the Indy Eleven on Sunday.
“We were superb in the first 30 minutes,” Rowdies Head Coach Thomas Rongen said. “One of the goals was an own goal, but we would have scored that one anyway. … We’re still unbeaten at home. We’ve got five wins and a tie. That’s pretty darn good, obviously. I keep saying we’re only going to get better, which is nice to see.”
Tampa Bay's first goal came in the 22nd minute, when Rowdies forward Corey Hertzog took advantage of a Silverbacks turnover to race in on goal. He passed to Brian Shriver on his right, who took a touch to collect the ball before firing a shot on goal. Atlanta goalkeeper C.J. Cochran got a hand to it, but it seemed to still be heading toward goal when centerback Rauwshawn McKenzie tried to clear it, but committed an own goal in the process.
The Rowdies doubled the lead just eight minutes later when right back Darnell King scored his first goal in green and gold. After receiving the ball on the right, King cut inside to his left and fired near post past Cochran for a 2-0 lead.
“(It was) pretty cool,” Rongen said. “At practice, we work on crossing. As soon as he got the ball, we were thinking, ‘O.K., Darnell, take a touch and whip it in,’ and then he cut inside on his left and we thought, ‘oh no.’ But then he scored and we all thought, ‘Darnell, great decision.’ As coaches, what do we know?
Darnell, a Tampa native, who plays in front of a home crowd filled with family and friends, was more than willing to break the rules a little bit to give his team an advantage.
“(The instruction to send in a cross) came into my head, because that’s what they’ve been telling me,” King said. “But from the position I was in, inside the box, take that touch and put it on frame. It worked out this time.”
After going up 2-0 — and perhaps affected by the summer afternoon heat — the Rowdies took their foot off the pedal. Atlanta’s goal came in the 36th minute when Rowdies defender Stefan Antonijevic headed into his own net on a Silverbacks corner kick.
“(After the second goal,) we stopped playing,” Rongen said. “We’re a little young, a little naïve and we thought the game was over. … They’re all learning lessons, but it’s great to teach when you’re still winning games.”
The Rowdies had a handful of chances to extend their lead in the second half, but didn’t end up needing a third goal to pick up all three points.

Scoring Summary:
Rowdies: Rauwshawn McKenzie - 22nd Minute (Own Goal)
Rowdies: Darnell King - 30th minute (Assisted by Corey Hertzog)
Atlanta: Stefan Antonijevic - 36th minute (Own Goal)

Rowdies: Pickens; King, Antonijevic, Mkandawire (c), Sweat; Guerra, Shriver, Núñez (Chavez 82'); Hernandez (Hristov 68'), Hertzog, Espinal
Atlanta Silverbacks: Cochran; Christian (Bangura 89'), McKenzie, Mensing (c), Black; Porter (Oppong 82'), Hughes, Mravec, Okafor; Bangura (Sousa 61'), Horth

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Rowdies vs. Atlanta Silverbacks

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (June 13, 2015) — The Tampa Bay Rowdies ended the North American Soccer League Spring Season with a 3-0 win over the visiting Atlanta Silverbacks on Saturday night.
Tampa Bay didn’t get the help it needed from Jacksonville Armada FC to win the Spring Season, but it will head into the midseason break with plenty of momentum thanks to their biggest win of the season. The Rowdies needed Jacksonville to beat the New York Cosmos to have a chance at overturning a goal differential deficit, but the Armada could only pull off a 3-3 draw. The Cosmos won the Spring Season with the result.
After a scoreless first half, a few slight tactical adjustments to help the pace of play by head coach Thomas Rongen helped Corey Hertzog, Martín Núñez and Georgi Hristov all score goals in the second half to lead the Rowdies to victory.
"We wanted to get into the break with a win," Rongen said. "Somewhere in the back of our minds, we talked if we could get to one, two, or three goals up and something happened in the (Cosmos) game, that would be great, but that was not our intent. Our intent was to get three points."
Atlanta nearly took a surprise lead in the 56th minute when Shaka Bangura took a shot from a sharp angle that hit both the crossbar and a goal post before caroming out of danger.
From there, the Rowdies utterly dominated the match.
Hertzog opened the scoring on the hour mark after brilliant individual work from Darwin Espinal to create the go-ahead moment. Espinal departs for international duty with the Honduras U-23 team Sunday, but not before receiving the ball and taking his defender on one-on-one and beating him to create space for Hertzog at the near post. Hertzog thrusted his chest to the ball and deflected it inside the post for his second goal of the season.
"All week, the coaches have been telling me to go to the near post," Hertzog said. "When I saw Darwin taking his man on, the first thing that came to my head was to get to the near post. He shot it at me and I just tried to get anything on it. ... I hadn't scored since the first game and I've been working so hard all season. It feels good to go into that break with confidence."
Núñez doubled the lead with a superb free kick in the 75th minute, lifting the ball over the Silverbacks wall and dropping it back underneath the crossbar in a perfect spot from about 22 yards out. It was Nunez's third goal of the season, tying him with Maicon Santos for the team lead.
The Silverbacks were reduced to 10 men after forward Jaime Chavez -- who entered the match in the 79th minute -- received yellow cards in the 85th and 86th minutes to earn a quick dismissal.
Second-half substitute Georgi Hristov scored the last goal of the night, converting a penalty kick in the 89th minute after winger Robert Hernandez was fouled in the 18-yard box by Atlanta captain Simon Mensing. Hristov has now scored in seven consecutive matches against the Silverbacks.
Tampa Bay's fourth clean sheet of the Spring ensure the Rowdies head into the break unbeaten at home and on a seven-match NASL unbeaten streak.
"We've worked very hard to keep clean sheets and look after each other on the pitch," center back Tamika Mkandawire said. "We defended as a team, starting from the front. We have a great set of guys and we work really hard on the training pitch with our coaches."
The Rowdies ended the Spring Season with 19 points, one shy of New York's 20. 

Scoring Summary
Rowdies: Corey Hertzog - 60th minute (Assisted by Darwin Espinal)
Rowdies: Martin Nuñez - 75th minute
Rowdies: Georgi Hristov - 89th minute (Penalty Kick)

Rowdies: Pickens; King, Antonijevic (Chavez 73'), Mkandawire (c), Sweat; Guerra, Shriver, Núñez (Hristov 81'); Hernandez, Hertzog, Espinal (Michaud 90')
Atlanta Silverbacks: Ceus; Miller, McKenzie, Mensing (c), Black; Oppong; Reed, Denissen (Chavez 79'), Harlley (Porter 46'); Horth, Bangura (Okafor 68')

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Rowdies vs. FC Edmonton

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (June 6, 2015) -- The Tampa Bay Rowdies live to play another game following a vital 2-1 win over FC Edmonton at Al Lang Stadium on Saturday night.
A draw or loss would have eliminated the Rowdies from the race to win the NASL Spring Season title. Goals by Darwin Espinal and Brian Shriver in front of 4,961 fans ensured that the Rowdies head into next week's Spring finale with a chance at winning the title and clinching an automatic berth in The Championship, the NASL's four-team postseason tournament.
To win the Spring Season title next week, the Rowdies will need a little help. Tampa Bay must beat the Atlanta Silverbacks, Jacksonville Armada FC must beat the New York Cosmos and the Rowdies must erase their six-goal deficit in goal differential against the Cosmos.
"We can determine our own fate in terms of winning games," Rowdies Head Coach Thomas Rongen said. "We need a little help, I understand that. We set out to, in this home stretch of two games, get six points. We've got three now with another good team in Atlanta coming here next week. Let the chips fall where they may."
Severely shorthanded by suspensions, red cards and international duty, the Rowdies still selected an aggressive lineup. Tampa Bay was without five players that started last week's 2-2 draw against the Indy Eleven. Shriver and Gale Agbossoumonde each made their first start of the season, with midfielder Marquez Fernandez making his professional debut as a second-half susbsitute.
The front four of forwards Darwin Espinal, Corey Hertzog and Robert Hernandez, as well as Brian Shriver in midfield, put Edmonton's defense under heavy pressure all night.
"We connected really well," Espinal said. "We just understand each other and it was fun playing. It was the funnest group that I've ever played with. I enjoyed it a lot."
Espinal got the night started in the 37th minute, pouncing on a loose ball for his second goal of the season. Hertzog had fired a shot from the endline that was saved at the near post by Eddies goalkeeper John Smits, but Smits was unable to hold onto the ball, leaving it for Espinal to poke into the net from close range.
The Rowdies doubled their lead on the hour mark with Shriver scoring his first goal of the season. Hernandez won Tampa Bay a free kick outside the corner of the 18-yard box. Hertzog fired a shot on goal, which Smits punched to the arc at the top of the box, where Shriver collected and blasted the ball into the top corner of the net for a 2-0 lead.
"I was having fun out there," Shriver said. "It was the first time I've gotten to play significant minutes in a game this year, so it was a chance to show what I can do. I saw the ball coming right to me, and I thought I needed to take a good first touch and get a clean shot off. I hit it nice and I was hoping it would get through the traffic. There were a lot of bodies in front of the net. Once it went through and hit the back of the net, it was a great feeling."
The two-goal advantage didn't last long, as Eddies midfielder Lance Laing expertly curled a ball past Rowdies goalkeeper Matt Pickens into the far netting just four minutes later to cut the Rowdies lead to 2-1. 
Tampa Bay held on to its lead though and closed the match well to earn all three crucial points.

Scoring Summary:
Rowdies: Darwin Espinal - 37th minute (unassisted)
Rowdies: Brian Shriver - 60th minute (unassisted)
FC Edmonton: Lance Laing - 64th minute (unassisted)

Rowdies: Pickens; King, Agbossoumonde (Boggs 84'), Mkandawire (c), Sweat; Guerra, Shriver, Núñez (Chavez 71'); Hernandez (Fernandez 90'), Hertzog, Espinal
FC Edmonton: Smits; Edward, Roberts, Watson (c), Moses; Nyassi, Burt (Boakai 68'), Raudales (Granitto 71'), Jones, Laing; Jonke (Nonni 84')

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Rowdies vs. Indy Eleven

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (May 30, 2015) -- The Tampa Bay Rowdies and Indy Eleven tied 2-2 on Saturday night at Michael A. Carroll Stadium in Indianapolis. The Rowdies seemed poised for a win deep in stoppage time, but an Indy goal in the eighth minute of stoppage time saw the teams split the points.
Indy Eleven took the lead in the 22nd minute off a goal by midfielder Dylan Mares, but defender Rich Balchan would find the equalizer for Tampa Bay late in the first half, setting the stage for an unpredictable second half.
It seemed like the Rowdies would steal all three points after forward Maicon Santos scored the go-ahead goal for the Rowdies, but Indy Eleven defender Kyle Hyland had other plans. As the match entered the 98th minute, Hyland blasted a strike into the upper 90 to level the match at 2-2. The Rowdies finished the game playing with 8 men after three second half red cards.
The match was halted in the 22nd minute due to lightning in the area for two hours and three minutes. 
It was Indy Eleven that started on the right foot, creating most of the chances in the first couple minutes of the match. Despite Indy pushing numbers forward, the Rowdies defense was able to contain all attacks. That would change in the 22nd minute when midfielder Brian Brown layed off a pass to Mares, who placed his shot at the far post far away from Rowdies goalkeeper Matt Pickens.
Immediately after the goal, the referee stopped the match due to lightning in the area. After a delay of two hours and three minutes, the teams came back onto the pitch to resume the match.
The Rowdies used the delay to regroup and come out stronger from the whistle. In the 28th minute forward Corey Hertzog had the first clear chance for the Rowdies, entering the 18-yard box and firing a shot just over the cross bar.
Just before the 40th minute, Balchan found space outside the 18-yard box and striked the ball towards Indy Eleven's goal. His shot deflected off defender Cory Miller and trickled into the net. This is Balchan's first goal with the Rowdies.
As the second half got underway, the Rowdies once again were under pressure by an Indy Eleven offense that wanted to regain the lead. Pickens made the first important save of the half in the 57th minute, when midfielder Victor Pineda curled his free kick on frame but the Rowdies keeper was there to push it wide of the net.
It was in the 68th minute when the Rowdies took the lead for the first time on the night. Midfielder Georgi Hristov serviced a perfect corner kick into the heart of the box finding a wide open Santos. The Brazilian redirected the cross with a beautiful header at the far post.
It wouldn't end well for Santos, as in the 73rd minute he would receive a red card for some extra curricular activities after a foul was called. As the Rowdies protected the one-goal lead, defender Stefan Antonijevic was issued a second yellow card and the ensuing red in the 89th minute.
In the dying moments of the match, Hyland found space from around 35 yards out and fired a shot into the top right corner of the net. Moments after the equalizer, the Rowdies were down to eight men as Hristov received a red card.

Scoring Summary:
Indy Eleven: Dylan Mares - 22nd minute (Assisted by Brian Brown)
Rowdies: Rich Balchan - 40th minute (Assisted by Georgi Hristov)
Rowdies: Maicon Santos - 68th minute (Assisted by Georgi Hristov)
Indy Eleven: Kyle Hyland - 90+8th minute

Indy Eleven: Nicht; Franco, Miller (Melgares 81'), Janicki (C), Hyland; Keller (Ring 34'); Stojkov (Wojcik 85'), Mares, Brown, Pineda; Rugg
Rowdies: Pickens; Balchan, Mkandawire (C), Antonijevic, Sweat; Guerra, Menjivar; Hristov; Hertzog (Hernandez 65', Agbossoumonde 90+'), Santos, Espinal (King 79')

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Rowdies vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds (Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup 3rd Round)

PITTSBURGH, Penn. (May 27, 2015) -- The Tampa Bay Rowdies exited the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday night after losing 1-0 to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds at Highmark Stadium in Pittsburgh. Riverhounds midfielder Rob Vincent scored the game-winning goal as the match entered stoppage time in the second half.
"You've got to give Pittsburgh a lot of credit," Rowdies Head Coach Thomas Rongen said. "They clearly deserved to win. It's pretty startling to me that we can play such a great game against Fort Lauderdale with the same Starting XI and such a mediocre game here. We're extremely disappointed, but we have to move on and learn from this."
From the start, Rowdies forward Martin Nuñez didn't have to wait much to get the first scoring opportunity of the match as it came just two minutes after the start.
Nuñez entered the 6-yard box and whipped a shot on net but it was Riverhounds goalkeeper Ryan Hulings who denied him the goal.
Minutes later, Rowdies goalkeeper Matt Pickens was called to make his first save of the match, diving to his right to push a shot by midfielder Kevin Kerr out for a corner kick. 
After an early chance, it wasn't until the 19th minute that the Rowdies created danger in Pittsburgh's 18-yard box. Midfielder Georgi Hristov curled in a corner kick finding defender Stefan Antonijevic towering over the Riverhounds defense. His powerful header was cleared off the line by midfielder Stephen Okai leaving Nuñez a scoring chance off the rebound. Again, it was Hulings who denied the Uruguayan his goal that would put the Rowdies ahead.
Pittsburgh had several chances at the close of the half, including a series a passes that led up to a shot by Kerr that hit off the post in the 40th minute.
The home side continued its momentum in the second half, not allowing the Rowdies to create chances to score the go-ahead goal. The Riverhounds had back-to-back chances in the 52nd minute with Pickens first denying Vincent with a great diving save, followed by an Okai header that went just wide of the net.
Rowdies head coach Thomas Rongen tried to add energy into his squad with second-half substitute Darwin Espinal, but the Riverhounds controlled the Rowdies offense until the final whistle.
Pickens was tested once again in the 79th minute, when Kerr received a long ball from defender Willie Hunt and volleyed his shot on net. The Rowdies goalkeeper dove to his right and sent the shot out for a corner kick.
As the referee signaled three minutes of added time, Vincent sprinted past the Rowdies midfield and blasted a shot into the bottom left corner of the net. Pickens, who had denied the Riverhounds all night long, was unable to make the save that would have sent the match into extra time.

Scoring Summary:
Pittsburgh: Robert Vincent - 90+1 minute

Riverhounds: Hulings; Arena, Hunt, Pasher, Green; Kerr, Moloto (Flunder 90'), Okai, Vincent, Earls; Cabrilo (Virgara 67')
Rowdies: Pickens; King, Mkandawire, Antonijevic, Sweat; Saragosa (Espinal 46'), Menjivar, Hristov; Hernandez, Santos (Hertzog 63'), Nuñez

Monday, 18 May 2015

Rowdies vs. Ft. Lauderdale Strikers

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (May 16, 2015) -- As the rain poured down at Al Lang Stadium on Saturday night, Robert Hernandez was in the right place at the right time.
Hernandez's first goal of the season carried a lot of weight, lifting the Rowdies over the rival Fort Lauderdale Strikers in front of 6,851 fans in a very tight match, but was nothing more than a tap-in at the back post. Chaos in front of Strikers goalkeeper David Meves saw the ball pop over to Hernandez all by himself to score the game-winner in the 55th minute.
The victory puts the Rowdies into second place alone in the NASL Spring Season standings, three points behind the league-leading New York Cosmos with three games to go. It also puts Tampa Bay in control of the Coastal Cup, with six points, ahead of Fort Lauderdale's three and Jacksonville's zero.
"It wasn't just another game, because I knew the importance of this game in terms of the standings, in terms of being at home and in terms of knowing that it would be in front of a great crowd," Rowdies Head Coach Thomas Rongen said. "A win for us, to stay in the hunt with three games left, was the most important thing."
Forward Maicon Santos had taken a shot which Meves saved but couldn't control. It bounced to the 5-foot-5 Hernandez for the defining moment of the match. 
“(Hernandez) can stretch defenses because of his dribble-penetration and speed,” Rongen said. “As a young player, he’s very gifted. There’s certain things I can’t teach, and his speed is sprinters speed. For him to get a goal was very cool. He’s not big, but he’s fast.”
For Hernandez, who had missed excellent scoring chances in previous games, getting his first goal for the Rowdies was huge.
“It was very emotional,” Hernandez said. “Now that I’ve scored, hopefully there are many more to come.”
Goalkeeper Matt Pickens didn't face a ton of shots from the Strikers, but was there at every time of need to keep his second-consecutive clean sheet in the win. Rongen credited the play of not only Pickens, but the four defenders in front of him and two defensive midfielders, for the fact that Tampa Bay’s goals-against-average has now dipped below one goal per game.

Scoring Summary:
Rowdies: Robert Hernandez - 55th minute (unassisted)

Rowdies: Pickens; King, Mkandawire, Antonijevic, Sweat; Saragosa (c), Menjivar, Hristov; Hernandez (Balchan 83'), Santos (Guerra 86'), Núñez (Hertzog 73')
Fort Lauderdale: Meves; Graye, Sanfilippo (c), Kling, Guerrero (Ramirez 73'); Sanchez (Hassan 73'), Freitas, Gonzalez, Angulo (Chin 57'), Pinho

Rowdies vs. Ottawa Fury FC

OTTAWA, Ontario, Canada (May 9, 2015) — The Tampa Bay Rowdies were unable to get on the scoresheet Saturday afternoon, but prevented Ottawa Fury FC from doing the same as the clubs played out a 0-0 draw in front of 3,461 at TD Place.
The draw leaves the Rowdies two points off the pace of first-place New York Cosmos, pending results around the league this weekend. This match wrapped up a stretch of four road matches in the opening six for the Rowdies, who now benefit from playing three of their final four Spring Season matches at Al Lang Stadium.
"It's a pretty good result at the end of the day," Rowdies Head Coach Thomas Rongen said. "A draw on the road is a good thing for us. We played well in stretches and created a few chances. We're not pleased, but we're lucky to get out of here with a draw and we'll take it."
Genuine scoring chances were few and few between in the opening 45 minutes. Ottawa had the best chance of the half in the 9th minute, when Sinisa Ubiparipovic’s free kick from just outside the box went through the Rowdies wall, but goalkeeper Matt Pickens dove to his left-hand side to make the save.
Tampa Bay could’ve scored once or twice in the first half, which was repeatedly stopped by injuries to Ottawa’s Romauld Peiser, Rafael Alves and Rowdies captain Marcelo Saragosa.
Saragosa took a cleat to the chin in the 34th minute which drew blood and forced him off the field for about six minutes. The wound repeatedly re-opened and eventually resulted in Saragosa exiting the match in the 76th minute.
As the match wound down, each team had one final brilliant scoring chance, but neither side could convert.
The Rowdies were first, with second-half substitute Robert Hernandez playing a perfect chip in to Corey Hertzog near the penalty spot in the 79th minute, but Hertzog’s first-touch shot looped well over the crossbar and out of play.
Ottawa’s chance came in the 89th minute when defender-turned-forward Brandon Poltronieri benefitted off an errant back pass and found himself one-on-one with Pickens. Poltronieri took one too many touches toward goal and Pickens was able to leave his line and collect the ball.
It was the Rowdies’ second clean sheet in six matches to start the season. Kamil Contofalsky recorded the other against Minnesota United FC on April 11.
"We have two number one (goalkeepers)," Rongen said. "Let the best man win the duel, so to speak. I'm very pleased for Matt. The back six, with the defenders in front of him plus the told holding midfielders, did a good job. I'm pleased for the team that we were able to keep the zero. I said at the beginning of the season that we should be a team that shouldn't concede much."
Newly-acquired Rowdies midfielder made his club debut in the match, playing all 90 minutes.

Ottawa: Peiser; Richter, Alves (Eustaquio 25') (Paterson 89'), Falvey, Trafford; De Guzman, Beckie, Ubiparipovic; Haworth (Paulo Jr. 67'), Weideman, Poltronieri
Rowdies: Pickens; King, Mkandawire, Antonijevic, Sweat; Saragosa (c) (Guerra 76'), Menjivar, Núñez (Shriver 80'); Boggs, Espinal (Hernandez 71'), Hertzog

Rowdies vs. Carolina Railhawks

CARY, N.C. (May 2, 2015) —The Tampa Bay Rowdies and Carolina RailHawks drew 1-1 on Saturday night at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, NC. The home team got on the scoreboard early as forward Nacho Novo scored in the 6th minute, but they would not hold the lead for long as midfielder Martin Nuñez equalized for the Rowdies in the 19th minute. Tampa Bay played with 10 men for the last 14 minutes of the match, as midfielder Georgi Hristov was issued a red card in the second half. 
Things didn't start out great for the Rowdies, as they went down 1-0 in the 6th minute. Midfielder Ty Shipalane beat Rowdies defender Ben Sweat on the right flank and crossed a low ball towards the far post. His cross found a wide open Novo, who tapped the ball in to give the RailHawks the lead.
Rowdies forward Maicon Santos would come close to equalizing the match in the 15th minute but after chipping his shot past Railhawks goalkeeper Hunter Gilstrap, the ball hit the crossbar and went out of play. 
In the 19th minute Tampa Bay would level the match via a strike from Nuñez at the far post. Hristov received a ball from defender Darnell King inside the 18-yard box and whipped in a low cross into the heart of the box. Nuñez was on the end of it, striking the ball into the back of the net to make it 1-1. The Uruguayan forward has now scored two goals in his last two matches.
The Rowdies gained momentum after scoring, elevating their pressure on the RailHawks back line. Tampa Bay almost took the lead in the 33rd minute after a series of shots inside the 18-yard box. Forward Maicon Santos had the initial shot on goal, which was saved by Gilstrap. It was then followed by a shot by defender Stefan Antonijevic and Hristov, but both were saved on the line by the RailHawks defenders. 
The second half started similar to the first, with the RailHawks controlling most of the possession. After not being able to create any dangerous chances in the first 10 minutes of the half, Carolina had three chances in the 55th, 58th and 59th minute. Midfielder Mark Anderson had the first chance but his shot trickled just wide of the net and minutes later it was midfielder Leo Osaki that had his goal robbed by Rowdies midfielder Marcelo Saragosa. Novo had the last of the three dangerous chances, smashing his volley into the side netting from six yards out. 
As the match progressed, the Rowdies were able to create chances in the RailHawks box, but they would be unable to capitalize on any of the opportunities. 
In the 76th minute, Hristov was sent off after fouling midfielder Wells Thompson around the center circle.
Despite being down to 10 men, the Rowdies had a clear chance to take the lead in the 80th minute. After defender Stefan Antonijevic flicked a header towards the far post, defender Wes Knight denied an incoming Nuñez his second goal of the night. 
In the second minute of added time, it was goalkeeper Matt Pickens who once again came up big for the Rowdies. Thompson found space just outside the 18-yard box and curled his shot on goal. Pickens dove to his left and stretched his arm out to send the ball out for a corner kick. 

Scoring Summary:
Carolina: Nacho Novo - 6th minute (assisted by Ty Shipalane)
Rowdies: Martin Nuñez - 19th minute (assisted by Georgi Hristov

RailHawks: Gilstrap; Knight, Low, Scott (C), Tobin; Shipalane, Hlavaty, Wagner, Osaki, Anderson (Thompson 73'); Novo (Baladez 81')

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Rowdies vs. Jacksonville Armada FC

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (April 25, 2015) — Tampa Bay Rowdies goalkeeper Matt Pickens didn’t start Saturday night’s 3-2 win over the Jacksonville Armada FC, but he certainly played a big role in ending it from the goalkeeper position.
Pickens entered the match in place of injured starting goalkeeper Kamil Contofalsky in stoppage time and made a handful in saves in short time to protect Tampa Bay’s lead and help the Rowdies to a huge Coastal Cup victory in front of 5,460 fans at Al Lang Stadium.
“While I was coming on, I realized that I had never entered a match as a substitute before,” Pickens said. “I hadn’t touched a ball for probably two hours, but I did what I could.”
Maicon Santos scored the first and last goals of the match, with Martin Nunez scoring the Rowdies’ second goal to tie the match in the second half.
The victory puts the Rowdies just one point behind the first-place New York Cosmos in the NASL Spring Season standings. It also ties the Rowdies with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers atop the Coastal Cup standings. 
“We never gave up,” Rowdies Head Coach Thomas Rongen said. “That was the mantra of our team in preseason and in the first two games. Man, did they respond to a little bit of (yelling) at halftime? I can’t be happier for this team. The work so hard and were finally able to give the home fans a win.”
The match had a frenetic start, a worthy precursor to the dramatic finish.
Santos put the Rowdies ahead just 12 minutes in with a penalty kick, his first goal of the season.
Less than two minutes later, Jacksonville was awarded a penalty kick of its own. Armada FC midfielder Marcos Flores’ shot was saved by Contofalsky, but Flores tapped in the rebound to even the match at 1-1 in the 14th minute.
After that, Jacksonville took control of the match, taking a 2-1 lead in the 32nd minute on a Jemal Johnson strike that caromed off both goalposts before trickling over the line.
Needing some magic in the second half, the Rowdies got a lifeline with Nunez’s blast from outside of the box to tie the match in the 59th minute.
Santos’ second goal of the night, a thundering header off Georgi Hristov’s cross from the byline in the 77th minute, set the stage for the dramatic finish.
Jacksonville finished the match with shot after shot on the Rowdies’ net. Pickens entered the match in the first of seven minutes of stoppage time and benefitted from a Rowdies team that put its body on the line time after time to block shots before they could reach Pickens.
When the Rowdies needed him though, Pickens made every save. He tipped pawed shots out of play with reflex saves and tipped the ball over the crossbar to help the Rowdies over the finish line with a 3-2 win in Tampa Bay’s 2015 Coastal Cup opener.

Scoring Summary:
Rowdies: Maicon Santos - 12th minute (Penalty Kick)
Jacksonville: Marcos Flores - 14th minute
Jacksonville: Jemal Johnson - 32nd minute
Rowdies: Martin Nuñez - 59th minute
Rowdies: Maicon Santos - 77th minute (Assisted by Georgi Hristov)

Rowdies: Čontofalský (Pickens 90'); Balchan, Mkandawire, Antonijevic, Sweat; Saragosa (c), Nuñez (King 72'), Hristov; Boggs (Hertzog 69'), Santos, Espinal
Jacksonville: Gallardo; Bahner, Ortiz, Trejo; Hoyos (Barrett 77'), Castrillon (c) (Nicklaw 73'), Scaglia, Flores (Rodriguez 79'); Millien, Keita, Johnson

Rowdies vs. New York Cosmos

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y.(April 18, 2015) —The Tampa Bay Rowdies suffered their first defeat of the season Saturday night, falling 2-0 to the New York Cosmos in the Cosmos’ home opener at James M. Shuart Stadium.
Marcos Senna helped the hosts to an early lead with a successful penalty kick in the 11th minute. New York’s Leo Fernandes doubled the lead just three minutes into the second half on a cross by Walter Restrepo.
Tampa Bay didn’t play well in the first half, thanks in part to the early New York goal. The Cosmos played a dangerous cross in from the right wing, which was cleared by the Rowdies defense, but the referee adjudged Rowdies right back Darnell King to have committed a handball and awarded New York a penalty kick.
Senna stutter stepped and shot to the right side of goal, beating Rowdies goalkeeper Kamil Contofalsky, who dove the opposite direction. It was Senna’s first goal of the season.
The rest of the half was a struggle for the Rowdies, who were outplayed by the Cosmos in front of a sellout crowd in Raul’s home debut.
The second half didn’t start well for Tampa Bay, with Senna winning a 50-50 challenge against Rowdies left back Ben Sweat and racing toward goal in space and finding Restrepo. The Rowdies defense over-pursued the ball, following it all the way to the byline and leaving plenty of space near the penalty spot for Restrepo to cross to Fernandes to finish for the 2-0 lead.
Tampa Bay played itself into the match after going down 2-0, but couldn’t find the finishing touch for a goal despite a few scoring chances.
In the 59th minute, King played a cross in from the right side to a couple of waiting Rowdies. Georgi Hristov took a shot, but lifted it over the crossbar.
Second-half substitute Darwin Espinal made a positive impact on the match, racing to the byline in the 71st minute. He beat his defender with the ball and turned toward goal before passing to Hristov, who was just wide of target with his shot.
Martin Nunez fired a first-time shot on goal in the 81st minute, but Cosmos goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer, who was not tested much on the night, made the save to preserve his clean sheet.

Scoring Summary:
New York: Marcos Senna - 11th minute (Penalty Kick)
New York: Leo Fernandes - 48th minute (Assisted by Walter Restrepo

New York Cosmos: Maurer;  Gorskie, Roversio, Mendes (c), Ayoze; Senna, Szetela; Restrepo, Raúl (Mkosana 90'), Fernandes (Moffat 86'); Stokkelien (Guenzatti 77')
Rowdies: Čontofalský; King, Mkandawire, Antonijevic, Sweat; Guerra (Nuñez 58') , Välimaa, Hristov; Hernandez (Boggs 86'), Santos, Hertzog (Espinal 58')

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Rowdies vs. Minnesota United FC

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (April 11, 2015)—The Tampa Bay Rowdies piled the pressure on Minnesota United FC on Saturday night, sending attack after attack forward, but couldn’t manage a goal and had to settle for a scoreless draw and a point in their home opener at Al Lang Stadium on Saturday night.
Playing in front of a soldout crowd of 7,010, the Rowdies didn’t start well, but found their way into the match and were the better team for long stretches, but just couldn’t put enough shots on target to beat Minnesota United goalkeeper Sammy Ndjock.
“The crowd was amazing,” Tampa Bay Head Coach Thomas Rongen said. “The guys just came up to me and said, ‘Coach, I’m sorry we couldn’t give the fans more.’ The house was rocking, the stadium was great. We’ll get wins at home. We’ll win much more than we lose. I think people will walk away saying we were a bit unlucky and worked hard.”
Rowdies forward Robert Hernandez wreaked havoc in the first half, receiving the ball and running at defenders from the right wing, but Tampa Bay’s communication and positioning was a touch off for most of the night. Many scoring threats broke down in Minnesota’s box before a shot could be taken.
“We didn’t play particularly well in the first half,” Rongen said. “That said, we had some good opportunities. In the second half, there were four or five occasions where the ball is bouncing around and we’ve got half chances, but we just couldn’t get to. We’re all disappointed that we couldn’t show the fans a few goals.”
After a scoreless first half, the Rowdies spent much of the second 45 minutes on the front foot, pressuring Minnesota’s defensive unit.
In the 48th minute, a Rowdies corner was cleared only to the edge of the box, where it landed at the feet of Corey Hertzog. Hertzog ripped a shot on target, but Ndjock, off his line near the penalty spot, made a reflex save to keep the Rowdies off the scoreboard.
Just after the 70th minute, it was second-half substitute Brian Shriver that hit side narrowly missed an open net.
Hertzog had one of the best scoring chances of the match, placing a header just inches wide of frame in the 89th minute off a pass from Martin Nunez.
“When you have a home opener and only get one point out of it, it’s frustrating,” Hertzog said. “I could have had two or three goals or made better decisions in the final third. That’s on me. As a team, the most important thing is that we kept them at zero and held strong.”
For now, it feels like the Rowdies dropped two points instead of picking up one, but Coach Rongen can still find positives in the result, particularly in keeping a clean sheet against one of the NASL’s best attacks.
“I thought it was a good game,” Rongen said. “Minnesota, in fairness, is a very good team. We kept it at zero, which was important for us. I’m pleased with the performance, but not happy with the result. We deserved three points.”

Rowdies: Čontofalský; King, Mkandawire, Antonijevic, Portillos; Saragosa (c) (Valimaa 76'), Chavez, Hristov; Hernandez (Nuñez 72'), Espinal (Shriver 60'), Hertzog
Minnesota United FC: Ndjock; Venegas, Calvano, Dias, Davis; Ibson, Pitchkolan, Mendes (Jordan 76'), Ibarra, Steele (Watson 86'); Ramirez (PCampos 77')

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Rowdies vs. San Antonio Scorpions

SAN ANTONIO, Tex. (April 4, 2015) – The San Antonio Scorpions threw a party at Toyota Field on Saturday night to celebrate their 2014 NASL Championship Final victory. Rings were given out and a championship flag was raised above the stadium.
Then the Rowdies left the visiting team locker room.
Once the whistle blew, it was the Rowdies throwing the party, powering to a 3-1 victory over the defending champions and starting their NASL campaign with three points.
Tampa Bay’s Stefan Antonijevic, Darwin Espinal and Corey Hertzog all scored in the comprehensive victory. San Antonio’s Omar Cummings scored in second-half stoppage time, long after the match had been decided.
Quick on the attack with an aggressive start, the Rowdies needed only 10 minutes to open the scoring and quiet the crowd of 6,723. Georgi Hristov’s perfectly-placed corner kick found the head of 6-foot-6 Antonijevic, who powered it past San Antonio’s Jon Kempin in net for Tampa Bay’s first goal of the season and an early 1-0 lead.
The Scorpions recovered and found their way back into the match after falling behind. San Antonio, led by midfielder Rafael Castillo, had several chances to score their first goal of the match, but a strong Rowdies defense would keep the score 1-0.
San Antonio nearly got out of the first half down only one goal, but Rowdies forward Darwin Espinal marked his professional debut with a goal in first half stoppage time to give Tampa Bay a 2-0 lead heading into the locker room.
Defender Darnell King made a speedy run down the right flank and into the box. After his cross was initially denied by a Scorpions defender, King slotted the rebound back to Espinal, who calmly placed his shot past Kempin to double the lead.
Desperate to turn the match around, San Antonio came out of the halftime break as the better side early in the second half.
Fifty-five minutes into the match, midfielder Marvin Chavez came very close to scoring the Scorpions’ first goal as his shot fired off the crossbar and out for a goal kick. Minutes later, Antonijevic came up big for the Rowdies blocking a shot inside the 18-yard box that was heading toward goal.
As the Scorpions continued to apply the pressure, it was Hertzog that extended the Rowdies lead to 3-0 just past the hour mark. In the 61st minute, the Rowdies forward received a pass from midfielder Marcelo Saragosa and curled his shot around Kempin and into the far netting to increase Tampa Bay’s lead to three goals.
With the match winding down, the Scorpions were able to pull a goal back and prevent Tampa Bay from recording a clean sheet. Rowdies goalkeeper Kamil Contofalsky had initially made a diving save on midfielder Castillo's shot, but Cummings was in the right place to score on the rebound.

Scoring Summary:
Rowdies: Stefan Antonijevic - 10th minute (Assisted by Georgi Hristov)
Rowdies: Darwin Espinal - 45+ minute (Assisted by Darnell King)
Rowdies: Corey Hertzog - 61st minute (Assisted by Marcelo Saragosa)
San Antonio: Omar Cummings - 90th minute

Scorpions: Kempin; Abdul-Salaam, Attakora, James, DeRoux; Castillo, Soto; Chavez, Forbes, Elizondo (Cruz 70'); Hassli (Cummings 67')
Rowdies: Čontofalský; King, Mkandawire, Antonijevic, Portillos; Saragosa (c), Savage (Guerra 33'), Hristov; Hernandez (Boggs 69'), Espinal (Chavez 84'), Hertzog

Monday, 30 March 2015

Rowdies vs. Jacksonville Armada FC (Exhibition Game)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (March 28, 2015) — The Tampa Bay Rowdies appear ready to open the 2015 North American Soccer League season following a 2-0 road win over Jacksonville Armada FC at EverBank Field on Saturday evening.
Keith Savage and Brian Shriver scored on either side of the halftime break to beat the Armada and run Tampa Bay’s preseason record to 7-2-2. The Rowdies open the NASL Spring Season next Saturday night in San Antonio against the defending champion Scorpions.
The Rowdies yielded a lot of possession to Jacksonville throughout the match, content to bend but not break defensively and then spring forward when the chance presented itself.
Jacksonville only forced Rowdies goalkeeper Kamil Contofalsky into one save in the opening 45 minutes.
In the 14th minute, Venezuelan winger Robert Hernandez flashed his speed and crossed a ball into the box for Maicon Santos, but the ball was just behind the big Brazilian forward and the chance went away.
Six minutes later, it was Santos crossing a ball in for Hernandez, but again the ball wasn’t quite perfect and Jacksonville was able to clear it away.
Santos very nearly broke the deadlock in the 26th minute, again off a cross by Hernandez, beating Sierra with his shot, but missing the far post by a matter of inches.
Savage scored his second goal of the preseason just before the halftime break when the Rowdies won a throw-in deep in Armada territory. Corey Hertzog delivered a long throw-in, which was glanced on by Stefan Antonijevic and straight to Savage a few yards out from the goal line. Savage tapped it past goalkeeper David Sierra and over the line to put Tampa Bay up 1-0 just before halftime.
Protecting a 1-0 lead in the second half, the Rowdies made mass substitutions and again seemed happy to let Jacksonville possess the ball and defend as a unit. Forward Brian Shriver’s entrance into the match immediately led the Rowdies doubling the lead.
Shriver checked in the 55th minute and scored with his first touch in the 58th minute, heading a perfect cross from Hernandez down and past Jacksonville goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo. It was Shriver’s second goal in as many matches this week.
Now up 2-0, the Rowdies really worked on protecting a lead and closing out the match.
Jacksonville couldn’t break through and only recorded one shot in the second half.

Scoring Summary:
Rowdies: Keith Savage - 43rd minute (assisted by Stefan Antonijevic)
Rowdies: Brian Shriver - 58th minute (assisted by Robert Hernandez)

Rowdies: Contofalsky; King (Fernandez 80'), Mkandawire (Michaud 87'), Antonijevic (Rusin 82'), Portillos (Sweat 63'); Saragosa (Guerra 61'), Savage (Chavez 75'), Hristov (Valimaa 59'); Hernandez (Nunez 62'), Santos (Espinal 43'), Hertzog (Shriver 55')

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Rowdies vs. FC Edmonton (Exhibition Game)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (March 25, 2015) — The Tampa Bay Rowdies picked up their sixth win of the preseason Wednesday night, topping FC Edmonton 2-1 at Jacksonville University in the Armada FC Four-Team Challenge.
Both Rowdies goals, scored by Georgi Hristov and Brian Shriver, were direct results of working hard to win the ball back from defenders in front of the opposition net.
The Rowdies didn’t field a full-strength team and battled through a physically demanding first half. Five players were cautioned in the opening 45 minutes for rough play. Neither side carved out many clear-cut chances in the opening period and neither scored.
For both teams, it was their first test against NASL-level competition this preseason.
The second half was much more fluid and featured all three goals.
Justin Chavez helped the Rowdies to their first goal of the match, chasing down a ball in Edmonton’s box and earning a penalty kick. Eddies defender Marko Aleksic thought he was alone, jogging toward a ball to clear it, but Chavez was just behind him, and when Aleksic swung his leg to clear the ball, he instead kicked Chavez’s body to concede the penalty.
Rowdies forward Georgi Hristov scored the penalty high into Edmonton’s net for a 1-0 Tampa Bay lead in the 65th minute.
The Rowdies ran into trouble in the 74th minute, when Edmonton played a long ball forward and caught Gale Agbossoumonde in a tough position. As he recovered, Agbossoumonde made too much contact with FCE’s Frank Jonke, conceding a penalty.
Eddies captain Ritchie Jones stepped up to take the penalty, but Rowdies goalkeeper Matt Pickens guessed right and saved it to preserve Tampa Bay’s lead.
Just a minute later, Sadi Jalali got into space to take another shot on goal, but again, Pickens was in the right spot to make the save.
In the 84th minute, more pressure from the Rowdies forwards forced an error in Edmonton’s defense.
Tampa Bay forward Darwin Espinal put heavy pressure on the Eddies and intercepted a pass between defenders 30 yards from goal. Espinal squared a ball into empty space for Brian Shriver to run onto. Shriver took a couple of touches before slotting it past John Smits in net to put the Rowdies up 2-0.
The Rowdies were just minutes from keeping a clean sheet, but a Lance Laing free kick in stoppage time found Jonke for a header past Pickens and into the net.

Scoring Summary: 
Rowdies: Georgi Hristov - 65th minute (Penalty Kick)
Rowdies: Brian Shriver - 84th minute
FC Edmonton: Frank Jonke - 91st minute

Rowdies: Pickens (C); King (Boggs 46'), Rusin, Agbossoumonde, Sweat; Chavez, Guerra, Nuñez; Shriver, Michaud (Hristov 61'), Hernandez (Espinal 46')
Edmonton: VanOekel (Smits 61'); Edward (Smith 87'), Moses (Roberts 87'), Roberts (Aleksic 61'), Smith (Zebie 61'); Raudales, Hauksson (Burt 61'), Jones, Fordyce (Sadi 61'), Laing; Ameobi (Jonke 61')

Monday, 23 March 2015

Rowdies vs. University of South Florida Bulls (Exhibition Game)

TAMPA, Fla. (March 21, 2015) — For the second time this week, the Tampa Bay Rowdies picked up a 4-1 preseason win over local college competition, topping the University of South Florida Bulls at Corbett Stadium on Saturday night.
With 14 days left in the preseason, the Rowdies are now 5-2-2 this preseason. The Rowdies topped the University of Tampa 4-1 on Wednesday night. Tampa Bay has two matches left before the season opener against the San Antonio Scorpions in Texas on April 4.
Maicon Santos, Corey Hertzog and Martin Nuñez all scored for the Rowdies. Tampa Bay also benefitted from a Bulls own goal in the first half. Brendan Hines-Ike converted a second-half penalty kick to put the Bulls on the board.
The Rowdies got off to a flying start, with Santos scoring a tap-in just three minutes into the match. The big Brazilian forward stole the ball off a USF defender, calmly rounded the keeper and passed the ball into the net for the opening goal. Santos has now scored goals in four consecutive matches for the Rowdies.
Tampa Bay stayed on the front foot, taking the match to the Bulls and forcing USF to defend for much of the first half. Trialist midfielder Verneri Valimaa raced to the byline and slotted a pass back across the face of goal, where a Bulls defender accidentally put it into his own net to put the Rowdies up 2-0 in the 13th minute.
Two minutes before halftime, Hertzog added a goal on an assist by Darnell King. Hertzog has now scored in back-to-back matches.
In the 62nd minute, Hines-Ike converted his penalty kick to cut the deficit to 3-1, but the Rowdies weren’t done shooting yet.
Less than 10 minutes later, second-half substitute Nuñez bent a free kick around the USF defensive wall and into the net for a 4-1 lead in the 71st minute.

Scoring Summary:
Rowdies: Maicon Santos - 3rd minute (unassisted)
Rowdies: Own Goal - 18th minute
Rowdies: Corey Hertzog - 43rd minute (assisted by Darnell King)
USF: Brendan Hines-Ike - 62nd minute (penalty kick)
Rowdies: Martin Nuñez  - 62nd minute (unassisted)

Rowdies: Contofalsky; King (Fernandez 82'), Mkandawire (Agbossoumonde 71'), Antonijevic (Rusin 82'), Sweat; Savage (Guerra 71'), Valimaa* (Chavez 77'), Espinal (Nuñez 46'); Boggs  (Shriver 71'), Santos, Hertzog (Michaud 71')
*indicates trialist

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Rowdies vs. University of Tampa Spartans (Exhibition Game)

TAMPA, Fla. (March 18, 2015)  —  Patient and controlled team play helped the Tampa Bay Rowdies top the University of Tampa Spartans 4-1 on Wednesday night as preparations for the 2015 North American Soccer League season continued.
Maicon Santos grabbed a pair of first-half goals — including a stunning lob from 40 yards out — and  Corey Hertzog and Jeffrey Michaud added tallies to earn the Rowdies their fourth win of the preseason campaign.
The Rowdies were patient all night, content to control the ball and move it around while searching for an entry toward goal.
Santos put Tampa Bay on the board first, rising to meet a Hertzog header off a corner kick in the 10th minute. It was his third consecutive match with a goal.
After playing provider on the first goal, Hertzog both earned and converted a penalty kick in the 18th minute, scoring low to the keeper’s right-hand side to put the Rowdies up 2-0 inside 20 minutes.
Santos grabbed his fourth goal of the preseason with an opportunistic strike in the 42nd minute. He received the ball just over the halfway line and spotted the Spartans keeper well off his line. Santos quickly lobbed an effort 40 yards over the keeper and into the net, drawing loud “oohs” from the crowd for a 3-0 lead.
The Spartans came back into the match in the 63rd minute, with forward Chris Campbell ripping the ball off a defender and placing a shot perfectly into the corner of the net.
The match seemed destined to end 3-1, but for a moment of magic from Jeff Michaud in stoppage time. The Rowdies rookie blasted a shot from the corner of the 18-yard box into the far netting to make the score 4-1.

Scoring summary:
Rowdies: Maicon Santos - 10th minute (assisted by Corey Hertzog)
Rowdies: Corey Hertzog - 18th minute (penalty kick)
Rowdies: Maicon Santos - 42nd minute (assisted by Rich Balchan)
UT: Chris Campbell - 63rd minute
Rowdies: Jeff Michaud - 90th minute (assisted by Martin Nuñez)

Rowdies First Half: Contofalsky; Balchan, Mkandawire (c), Antonijevic, Portillos; Chavez, Savage, Espinal; Boggs, Santos, Hertzog
Rowdies Second Half: Pickens; Fernandez, Agbossoumonde, Rusin (c), Sweat; Valimaa*, Guerra, Nuñez; King, Shriver, Michaud
* Indicates trialist 

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Rowdies vs. FC Montreal (Exhibition Game)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (March 13, 2015) — Maicon Santos earned the Tampa Bay Rowdies a 1-1 draw against FC Montreal in a closed-door scrimmage at Al Lang Stadium on Friday afternoon.
FC Montreal is the reserve side for Major League Soccer’s Montreal Impact and competes in the USL.
The Rowdies started the match on the front foot, piling pressure on the visitors right away. Apart from an FC Montreal free kick in the 12th minute, the Rowdies had every scoring chance in the first 45 minutes. On the half hour mark, midfielder Jeff Michaud ripped a shot from outside the box that just climbed over the crossbar.
Four minutes later, Corey Hertzog beat his defender and raced into the box, where he drew significant contact but was not awarded a penalty kick. On the ensuing corner kick, Stefan Antonijevic directed a header just wide of the near post.
Martin Nuñez hit the goalpost with a free kick late in the half, but the score was still even at 0-0 at the break.
Montreal’s Victor N’Diaye gave the away side a quick lead in the second half, capitalizing on a mistake in the Rowdies backline in the 46th minute.
Santos had a chance at pulling Tampa Bay level in the 54th minute, but sent his free kick from the corner of the box into the wall.
In the 68th minute, Santos made good on another chance, running onto a Keith Savage through ball and rounding the goalkeeper before finishing with his left foot to tie the match 1-1.
Tampa Bay had a couple chances at winning the match late on, but had to settle for a draw.

Rowdies vs. Alcanenense (Exhibition Game)

RIO MAIOR, Portugal (March 6, 2015) — The Tampa Bay Rowdies will be coming home Sunday from the preseason tour of Portugal with two wins, a loss and now a draw following Friday’s 1-1 deadlock against Alcanenense in Rio Maior.
Maicon Santos scored his first goal of the preseason in the first half, nodding home a Georgi Hristov corner kick with his head in the 15th minute. Alcanenense tied the match with a penalty kick in the 66th minute. Neither team would score again.
Rowdies Head Coach Thomas Rongen selected a strong starting lineup for the match, picking an XI based on the best performers from the Rowdies’ first three matches in Portugal. Midfielder Marcelo Saragosa wore the captain’s armband.
The Rowdies started the match slowly, possessing the ball for long stretches but without a cutting edge to create viable scoring chances.
Hristov’s corner kick on the quarter hour mark broke the match open, with tall Brazilian forward Maicon Santos leaping to meet the ball with a glancing header toward the back post and beyond Alcanenense’s goalkeeper for a 1-0 lead.
The Rowdies made four changes at the half and were forced into a fifth very quickly when Tamika Mkandawire clashed legs with another player and was withdrawn from the match for precautionary reasons. He is not expected to miss practice Saturday.
With the team undergoing changes, it took some time for the Rowdies to settle into the second half.
Young forward Darwin Espinal provided a consistent outlet down the right wing after halftime, creating numerous scoring chances with his speed. A couple of times, Espinal would beat his defender one-on-one, dribble into the box and cross for a teammate to shoot. JeffMichaud and Hristov each had scoring opportunities created by Espinal, but both sent their efforts just over the crossbar.
With the final whistle, the playing portion of the Rowdies’ tour of Portugal ended. The team has one full day left in Rio Maior before returning home to Tampa Bay on Sunday night.

Rowdies: Contofalsky; King (Chavez 46’), Mkandawire (Agbossoumonde 53’), Antonijevic (Rusin 46’), Sweat; Saragosa (c) (Guerra 74’), Savage (Michaud 46’), Hristov; Boggs (Nunez 46’), Santos (Shriver 70’), Espinal

Friday, 6 March 2015

Rowdies vs. Sporting Lisbon B (Exhibition Game)

ALCOCHETE, Portugal (March 4, 2015) — A late free kick goal scored in the final minutes by Sporting B doomed the Tampa Bay Rowdies to a 3-2 loss Wednesday morning at Sporting Lisbon’s Academy. It was the Rowdies’ first loss in three preseason matches in Portugal.
Sporting B opened the match well, scoring just 12 minutes in on a nice piece of movement from the pacey right winger to get behind the Rowdies defensive line and create space for a shot, which he scored.
Sporting B is in midseason form, having already played 31 matches this year in the Segunda Liga, Portugal’s second division. The team currently sits in ninth place.
The Rowdies responded quickly though with committed team defense leading to offense. Sporting was awarded a throw-in deep in its own end and the Rowdies pinched in and put heavy pressure on the ball. Sporting turned it over and Tampa Bay’s Darwin Espinal received the ball with back to goal on the corner of the 18-yard box. Espinal spun and shot so quickly, Sporting’s goalkeeper was left flat-footed as he turned to watch the ball sail past him and into the far netting to tie up the matchin the 20th minute.
Tampa Bay’s starters continued to hold their own against Sporting before being replaced with a second unit of players on the hour mark. Chris Glodack, Ben Sweat and Espinal were the only players to play all 90 minutes.
Espinal nearly gave the Rowdies a lead in the 82nd minute, shooting hard on target and forcing Sporting’s goalkeeper to make a save. The goalkeeper was able to get a touch on the ball, but it popped high above him and appeared set to bounce over the line before a Sporting defender recovered to clear it away a yard in front of the goal line.
With the score still tied 1-1, Sporting once again took a lead in the 83rd minute on a cross from the right wing that found a friendly foot at the back post for a simple tap-in.
Still fighting hard for a result, the Rowdies didn’t have to wait long for the equalizer.
Zak Boggs tied the match just a minute later on an assist from Martin Nuñez in the 83rd minute. The goal looked very similar to one Keith Savage scored against Benfica U-20 on Tuesday, with Nuñez passing the ball from the byline back toward the penalty spot for Boggs to first-time past the goalkeeper.
It looked like the Rowdies would earn a draw until a Sporting free kick in the closing minutes bent around the wall and into the net to give Sporting a 3-2 win.

Rowdies Lineup: Glodack; Fernandez (King 60’), Mkandawire (Agbossoumonde 60’), Rusin (Antonijevic 60’), Sweat; Michaud (Nuñez 60’), Guerra (Saragosa 60’), Chavez (Savage 60’); Shriver (Boggs 60’), Espinal, Wuthrich* (Santos 60’)
* indicates trialist

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Rowdies vs. SL Benfica’s U-20s (Exhibition Game)

SEIXAL, Portugal (March 3, 2015)  —  Another match, another win.
The Tampa Bay Rowdies notched win number two on their preseason tour of Portugal on Tuesday morning with a 3-1 victory over SL Benfica’s U-20 team. The Rowdies are now 2-0-0 on the trip, having previously defeated CD Fatima on Sunday.
The match was played under perfect skies at a beautiful venue, SL Benfica’s Academy Complex in Seixal, just across the Rio Tagus from the capital city of Lisbon.
Coach Thomas Rongen changed the format of his team from the previous preseason matches, opting to let an 11-man unit play an hour, before being replaced by a second unit to play the last 30 minutes. In previous matches, each unit got 45 minutes.
The starting XI was captained by midfielder Marcelo Saragosa.
After a few minutes of uneasiness that allowed Benfica to settle on the ball and possess it, the Rowdies got themselves into the match and confidence started to soar.
Georgi Hristov gave Tampa Bay a great start, racing into the box in the 10th minute and earning a penalty kick after being brought down by the goalkeeper. Hristov converted the subsequent penalty to give the Rowdies a 1-0 lead early.
Ten minutes later, Hristov was the creator of another Rowdies goal. He chased a long ball over the top to the byline, cleverly sliding to get a foot around the ball before it rolled over the line for a Benfica goal kick. Hristov then slotted a pass back toward the penalty spot, where midfielder Keith Savage first-timed it hard into the net for a 2-0 Rowdies lead.
The rest of the first half was pretty even, though Benfica struggled to create scoring opportunities on its own. Its best chances came on free kicks around the box, though the Rowdies quickly organized to defend the free kicks and allow few shots on target.
Shortly after half time, the referee awarded Benfica a penalty kick of its own, which was converted to make the score 2-1 in favor of the Rowdies.
After the mass substitutions on the hour mark, the Rowdies were again the dominant team, creating chance after chance and peppering Benfica’s net.
Zak Boggs nearly made the score 3-1 tapping a rebound off the underside of the crossbar and over the line, but the assistant referee adjudged him to have been in an offside position on the initial shot and waived the goal off.
The Rowdies would get their third goal though, with 20-year forward Darwin Espinal taking advantage of a Benfica mistake and breaking away toward goal. After rounding the goalkeeper, Espinal stopped the ball on a dime to tap it around a defender that had recovered, leaving the defender on his back as Espinal confidently laced the ball into the net for a 3-1 win.
It was Espinal’s first goal as a member of the Rowdies.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Rowdies vs. CD Fatima (Exhibition Game)

FATIMA, Portugal (March 1, 2015) — The Tampa Bay Rowdies’ preseason tour of Portugal is off to a flying start courtesy of an impressive shift by rookie left back Zac Portillos in Tampa Bay’s 1-0 win over CD Fatima on Sunday morning.
After a couple of days adapting to Portugal in training, Tampa Bay’s match against Fatima was the first of four friendlies the club will play this week.
As in the two preseason friendlies, Head Coach Thomas Rongen played a split-squad, making 10 substitutions at halftime to ensure everyone who dressed for the match 45 minutes of game time. Portillos was the only player to play 90 minutes.
The first half lineup was captained by midfielder Marcelo Saragosa, who was one of six signed players to make their preseason debut Sunday. Juan Guerra, Georgi Hristov, Maicon Santos, Brad Rusin and Darwin Espinal also got their first minutes of the preseason under their belt in the win.
Santos had the best chance at a goal in the first half, receiving an excellent ball from Hristov on the penalty spot, but his first-time shot went inches wide of the goal post. Fatima didn’t threaten much, with the Rowdies comfortably controlling the match for long stretches.
Keith Savage, now the longest-tenured Rowdies player, wore the captain’s armband in the second half, which the Rowdies played extremely aggressive with a nose for goal. If not for a couple of very close offside calls, Tampa Bay could have put a few goals on the board with 20-yard Darwin Espinal just a touch early on several runs through the defense.
Portillos won the match for the Rowdies with an 85th minute goal assisted by Jeff Michaud. Portillos raced down the left flank with the ball at his feet before passing it inside to Michaud and continuing his run. Michaud played a perfectly weighted through ball for Portillos, who kept his balance after contact from a defender. Portillos rounded the diving keeper and slotted his first professional goal home with his right foot to put an exclamation mark on an impressive showing all match.

Scoring Summary:
Rowdies: Zac Portillos – 85th Minute (Assisted by Jeff Michaud)

Rowdies First Half: Contofalsky; Balchan*, Mkandawire, Antonijevic, Portillos; Guerra, Saragosa, King; Hristov, Santos, Nuñez
Second Half: Glodack; Fernandez, Agbossoumonde, Rusin, Portillos; Michaud, Savage, Wuthrich*; Shriver, Espinal, Boggs
* Indicates trialist 

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Rowdies vs. Malmö FF (Exhibition Game)

BRADENTON, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Rowdies were second best Thursday night, falling 4-0 to Swedish powerhouse Malmö FF 4-0 in an exhibition match at IMG Academy Stadium.
Rowdies coach Thomas Rongen again played a trialist-heavy lineup to assess players early with nearly two months still remaining before the Rowdies’ 2015 North American Soccer League season opener on April 4 in San Antonio. Four trialists started the match and 10 of 12 players to appear in the second half were trialists.
The teams played a well-contested first 30 minutes, with the Rowdies standing toe-to-toe with the reigning Swedish champions. Malmö FF is the winningest team in Sweden, with 21 Allsvenskan league championships to its name. The club competed in the group stage of the 2014-2015 UEFA Champions League against Atletico Madrid (Spain,) Juventus (Italy) and Olympiacos (Greece.)
With the match scoreless through 30 minutes, Malmö’s Magnus Wolf Eikrem opened the scoring after a Rowdies defensive lapse in the 32nd minute. Malmö was awarded a free kick near the corner flag and took it quickly, delivering the ball in to Eikrem before the Rowdies had set up defensively. Eikrem turned and fired on goal. Trialist goalkeeper Chris Glodack got a glove on it, but was unable to stop the shot.
Malmö doubled the lead in the 42nd minute when Markus Rosenberg found space in the box for a shot. The Swedes were back at it just a minute later when Erik Johansson headed a corner kick past Glodack for Malmö’s third goal.
The second half was much choppier, but the Rowdies again held their own against the Europeans. Pawel Cibicki scored Malmö’s only goal of the second half in the 69th minute.
The Rowdies had several scoring chances themselves, but were ultimately unable to beat goalkeeper Robin Olssen on the night, falling 4-0.

Scoring Summary:
Malmo - Eikrem - 32 Minute (Assisted by Yotun)
Malmo - Rosenberg - 42 Minute (Assisted by Berget)
Malmo - Johansson - 43rd Minute (Assisted by Eikrem)
Malmo - Cibicki - 69th minute (Assisted by Rosenberg)

Malmo FF: Olsen; Tinnerholm (Konate 46'), Johansson, Helander, Yotun (Hammar 67'); Sana (Johansson 67'), Adu (Cibicki 46'), Lewicki, Eikrem; Rosenberg (Rakip '77), Berget (Mehmeti 77')
Rowdies First Half: Glodack*; King, Yamada*, Agbossoumonde, Portillos*; Chavez, Nuñez, Savage; Shriver, Barbara*, Hertzog
Rowdies Second Half: Glodack*; Balchin*, Yamada* (Gonzalez 67'), Antonijevic, Barrientos*; Michaud*, Fernandez*, Paez*; Hernandez, Walker*, Boggs*
* Indicates trialist