Rowdies Edge Out Strikers in First Meeting of the Season
The Tampa Bay Rowdies climbed to the top of the table on Saturday night in Ft. Lauderdale, thanks to a 2-1 victory over their in-state rivals Ft. Lauderdale Strikers. Goals from midfielders Luke Mulholland and Alex Dixon put the Rowdies up by two, but the home team would slash the lead to just one after a late goal by midfielder Walter Restrepo. A late push by the Strikers almost found them the equalizer, but the Rowdies were solid defensively, picking up their second win this season.
"All credit to our team for their performance tonight," stated Head Coach Ricky Hill. "We were able to stay concentrated the entire 90 minutes and come out of here with a win. Taking three points out of a derby is a big accomplishment and I feel we deserved them tonight."
Both teams shared possession in the first half with Tampa Bay dominating early on. Ft. Lauderdale would react and even out the ball control as the minutes progressed but they would not be able to force any dangerous chances on the Rowdies goal.
Tampa Bay came out strong in the last part of the first half, scoring a late goal in the final minutes of the first half that gave the reigning NASL Champions a 1-0 lead at the half over the Strikers. Midfielder Luke Mulholland scored his third goal of the season off a strike from outside the 18-yard box that was just out of the reach of Strikers goalkeeper Matt Glaeser. Mulholland's shot curled into the bottom left corner of the net, taking a bounce off the post before it hit the back of the net.
Mulholland's goal seemed to lower the momentum of the match in the second half, as both teams would share possession and were unable to create any dangerous chances.
With Frimpong already in the books, Rowdies head coach Ricky Hill opted to put Dixon in his place in the 63rd minute. The substitute proved to be vital for the Rowdies, scoring his first goal with the club in the 78th minute. The game-winning goal came off a low cross from the left flank by forward Georgi Hristov, which Dixon tapped in for the two-goal lead.
"It is tremendous for him to pick up this goal," explained Hill. "To come into the match in the second half and make the impact he made on the pitch is great for him and for all of the players. His goal gave the entire squad the cushion they needed to get this great victory."
Instantly Ft. Lauderdale reacted, as second half substitute Restrepo made it 2-1 in the 80th minute. Restrepo was able to beat the Rowdies goalkeeper, who had come off his line, and slid the ball into the empty net.
As expected, the Strikers looked for the equalizer in the last 10 minutes of the match, but Rowdies goalkeeper Diego Restrepo came up big in several dangerous chances.
"It was a pleasing defensive performance, especially in those last 10 minutes where we were able to hold the Strikers' final push for the equalizer," commented Hill. "The entire squad managed to stay organized even after the several adjustments we had to make because of injuries. Every player was concentrated on the pitch and they all played their part in obtaining the win tonight."
Rowdies - Luke Mulholland - 42nd minute (Assisted by Georgi Hristov)
Rowdies - Alex Dixon - 78th minute (Assisted by Georgi Hristov)
Ft. Lauderdale - Walter Restrepo - 80th minute
Ft. Lauderdale: Laurendi (Glaeser 35'); King, Thomas, Ståhl (Captain), Guerrero; Pinheiro (Restrepo 45'), Pecka; Johnson, Anderson, Foley; Dimitrov (Hassan 69')
Rowdies: Restrepo; Sanfilippo (Captain), Needham (Gafa 12'), Scott, Arango (Walker 74'); Frimpong (Dixon 63'), Savage, Hill, Cox; Mulholland, Hristov