ROWDIES FALL 3-2 TO MINNESOTA UNITED FC
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Rowdies mounted a late comeback effort against league-leading Minnesota United FC, but ran out of time, losing 3-2 to the Loons.
The Rowdies had taken a 1-0 first-half only for Minnesota to equalize by halftime. A pair of Minnesota goals on either side of the hour mark gave the Loons a 3-1 lead. Rowdies forward Casey Townsend cut the deficit in half with a goal in the 90th minute, but referee Rubiel Vazquez ended the match before the Rowdies had time to score their third goal.
Tampa Bay forward Georgi Hristov put the Rowdies ahead in the 28th minute, but Loons forward Christian Ramirez leveled the score just before halftime in the 44th minute.
"Overall, it was a fairly good game," Rowdies coach Ricky Hill said. "I was happy with the discipline our guys showed within the tactical structure that we set out during the last couple of days. They implented that really well in the first half and I felt Minnesota weren't really a threat at all during that period. Instead of being 1-nil at half time, which would have given us extra confidence and lift, we came in at 1-all from a long throw-in into our box. I asked my guys to give me another 45 minutes of discipline the way they did in the first half, but we came out in the second period a little bit cold."
Blake Wagner earned an assist on the Rowdies goal, collecting the ball and dragged it away from his defender and onto his back foot. He then sneakily poked the ball through to Hristov, sending him one-on-one against Minnesota goalkeeper Matt Van Oekel. Hristov took a couple of dribbles to draw Van Oekel off his line, then slid the ball low past the goalkeepers' right hand to put the Rowdies up 1-0.
Hristov nearly had another one-on-one opportunity against Van Oekel in the 43rd minute, but Minnesota's last ditch defending did enough to prevent the Rowdies from taking a 2-0 lead.
Tampa Bay's lead nearly lasted until halftime, but a long throw-in by Brian Kallman deep in the Rowdies' half found Ramirez on the back post, who finished first-time past Rowdies goalkeeper Matt Pickens.
A Minnesota defensive error in the 51st minute nearly gave Corey Hertzog a shot on goal after stealing an attempted clearance, but the ball ran just far enough away from him for Minnesota to successfully clear it.
In the 56th minute, Hristov intercepted a pass near midfield and started a quick attack with Luciano Olguin for support. Hristov slid the ball over to Olguin, who shot with his left foot, but it was saved by Van Oekel.
Minnesota's second goal, in the 58th minute, came in controversial fashion. Rowdies defender Anthony Wallace shielded Brian Kallman to the endline, with the ball appearing to roll past the endline and out of play before Kallman crossed to Ramirez, who finished past Pickens. The goal was Ramirez's league-high 19th of the season.
"There's some dispute about whether the ball went over the line or not," Hill said. "At this level, you just continue playing to the whistle and that's it. We went 2-1 down and then, in quick succession, went 3-1 down without really being focused and intense enough in and around our box."
Eight minutes later, Juliano Vicentini extended Minnesota's lead to 3-1 with his first goal of the season. Ramirez and newly-minted United States Men's National Team member Miguel Ibarra combined well just outside the Rowdies' 18-yard box, but Tampa Bay defender Kyle Clinton stepped in and poked the ball away from Ibarra. The ball bounced directly to Aaron Pitchkolan, who slid it to Vicentini for a first-time finish and a 3-1 lead.
Tampa Bay made a pair of offensive-minded substitutions, sending Lucky Mkosana and Casey Townsend onto the field immediately after Vicentini's goal as it attempted to even the match once again. Those two would pair together for a goal in the 90th minute, as Mkosana's low cross from the left wing beat Minnesota's defenders. Townsend tapped it past Van Oekel from close range for his third goal of the season.
"The guys kept going and kept trying to prise things open," Hill said. "We didn't create enough opportunities to get back in the game, but we had a nice chance at the end that Casey converted well."
The Rowdies had one final chance to equalize before the end of the match, when Wallace took a free kick from 40 yards out, but his delivery was too long for the Rowdies to manage a shot.
Rowdies: Georgi Hristov- 28th minute (Assisted by Blake Wagner)
Minnesota: Christian Ramirez- 44th minute (Assisted by Brian Kallman)
Minnesota: Christian Ramirez- 58th minute (Assisted by Brian Kallman)
Minnesota: Juliano Vicentini- 66th minute (Assisted by Aaron Pitchkolan)
Rowdies: Casey Townsend- 90th minute (Assisted by Lucky Mkosana)
Rowdies: Pickens; Gafa, Clinton, Yamada, Wallace; Hertzog (Frimpong 90'), Russell, Savage, Wagner (Mkosana 66'); Olguin (Townsend 66'), Hristov
Minnesota: Van Oekel; Kallman, Calvano, Dias, Davis; Vicentini (Reed 71'), Franks (Ibarra 59'); Venegas (Mendes 79'), Pitchkolan (c), Daley; Ramirez