Rowdies Late Goal Not Enough to Avoid 2-1 Loss to Strikers
The Tampa Bay Rowdies lost 2-1 to the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers on Saturday night at Lockhart Stadium in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. A first-half goal by midfielder Martin Nuñez put the home team up by one goal at the half. Strikers second-half substitute Bradlee Baladez increased the lead to two before the Rowdies would cut the lead in half in stoppage time thanks to a goal by forward Carl Cort.
Ft. Lauderdale immediately put Rowdies goalkeeper Diego Restrepo to test, as Walter Restrepo forced the keeper to make a great save just seven minutes into the match. After both teams shared possession in the initial 20 minutes, the Strikers would get the go-ahead goal in the 22nd minute, after Nuñez headed home a cross from the right flank past Restrepo.
Restrepo would be called to make another fantastic save just several minutes after as midfielder Paulo Jr. broke free from the Rowdies defense, entering the box with just the keeper to beat. Restrepo came out very quickly and closed down on the shot, making one of several notable saves.
As the first half reached the 40th minute, the Rowdies began to string together several passes in search of the goal that would equalize the match. Their intentions would be shot down by a Strikers defense that remained compact throughout the opening half.
Restrepo once again was crucial in the 41st minute, as he denied Paulo Jr.’s shot with a diving one-handed save sending the ball out for a corner. Despite the Rowdies keeper having a prolific first half, Tampa Bay entered halftime down one goal.
The second half begun with the Rowdies pushing for the equalizer, and they came close to it off a Jay Needham header in the 56th minute. Several minutes later forward Lucky Mkosana created space with an individual run down the right flank. Upon entering the 18-yard box, he laid it off to midfielder Keith Savage who took a strike from around the penalty spot but two Strikers defenders were able to block the shot before it could cause any trouble.
Mkosana would redirect a Mulholland cross with a powerful header in the 71st minute but it would go straight to Strikers goalkeeper Richard Sanchez.
As the Rowdies inched closer to the tying goal, the Strikers shocked the visiting team with the 2-0 insurance goal that sealed the victory. Baladez received a pass at the top of the box from Paulo Jr. and with time he was able to slot the ball past a diving Restrepo.
With just seconds left in the match, second-half substitute Carl Cort would score the Rowdies lone goal of the night as he volleyed a shot past Sanchez for his second goal of the season.
Ft. Lauderdale: Martin Nuñez - 22nd minute (Assisted by Carlos Salazar)
Ft. Lauderdale: Bradlee Baladez - 84th minute (Assisted by Paulo Jr.)
Rowdies: Carl Cort - 94th minute (Assisted by Franke Sanfilippo)
Ft. Lauderdale: Sánchez; King, Alves, Antonijevic, Guerrero; Restrepo, Pecka (Captain), Salazar (Chavez 72'), Paulo Jr. (Gonzalez 85'); Nuñez; Pérez (Baladez 79')
Rowdies: Restrepo; Sanfilippo (Captain), Needham, Yamada, Arango; Savage (Cort 68'), Hill, Campbell (J. Cox 83'); Mulholland, Mkosana, Frimpong