Rowdies Claim Fourth Consecutive Coastal Cup with 2-1 Win Over Strikers
The Tampa Bay Rowdies defeated the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers 2-1 on Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, Fla. After the Rowdies and Strikers finished leveled at one at the half, midfielder Luke Mulholland scored off a penalty kick to give the Rowdies the 2-1 win.
"It's fantastic to have three points," said Rowdies head coach Ricky Hill. "Once again they haven’t let their heads drop and overall I was delighted that they really wanted to win this game tonight. We dominated the second half in terms of being on the front foot."
The home team opened up the scoring in the 14th minute with a goal by forward Lucky Mkosana, who scored his second goal of the season. After making a fantastic run behind the Strikers defense, he picked up a pass from forward Etienne Barbara and pushed it into the net past goalkeeper Richard Sanchez.
"Etienne did a great job in seeing me make the run," commented Mkosana. "I took my chance in going around the keeper, in order to have an empty net finish. Luckily I was successful and put it in the back of the net."
Both teams created several chances in the first half, with the Strikers looking for the equalizer. After several opportunities, the Strikers would level the match in the 38th minute after a run by forward Yaikel Perez down the right flank led to a pass into the heart of the box. Midfielder Martin Nunez was on the other end to push it into the empty net.
"When the Strikers scored, we felt something like 'Oh no, not again'," explained Mulholland. "Credit to the team for pulling it together and seeing it through in the second half."
The Rowdies entered the second half hungry for the goal that would give them the win against their in-state rivals. It was Mkosana who would have one of the first chances of the half, as he beat a Strikers defender to a misplayed ball. As he entered the box, his shot went wide right and the score remained 1-1.
As the clocked hit the 74th minute, midfielder Keith Savage was brought down by Pecka inside the box and the Rowdies were awarded a penalty kick. Mulholland capitalized on the call and placed his kick in the bottom left corner of the net to make it 2-1.
The match continued to be played mostly in the middle third after the goal, with several players picking up cards in the remaining 15 minutes. With the 2-1 win, the Rowdies won their fourth consecutive Coastal Cup. Tampa Bay did however clinch the cup at home for the first time in four years.
Rowdies: Lucky Mkosana - 14th minute (Assisted by Etienne Barbara)
Ft. Lauderdale: Martin Nunez - 38th minute (Assisted by Yaikel Perez)
Rowdies: Luke Mulholland - 76th minute (Penalty Kick)
Rowdies: Restrepo; Sanfilippo (Captain), Yamada, Arango, R. Cox; Hill (Savage 34'), Campbell, Mulholland; Mkosana (Del Do 83'), Frimpong, Barbara (Cort 66')
Ft. Lauderdale: Sanchez; King, Alvez, Antonijevic, Guerrero; Pecka (C); Restrepo, Nunez, Salazar (Baladez 78'), Paulo Jr (Gonzalez 67'); Perez