ROWDIES BEAT JACKSONVILLE ARMADA FC 3-2 IN COASTAL CUP THRILLER
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.
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