Thursday, 18 June 2015

Rowdies vs. Atlanta Silverbacks

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (June 13, 2015) — The Tampa Bay Rowdies ended the North American Soccer League Spring Season with a 3-0 win over the visiting Atlanta Silverbacks on Saturday night.
Tampa Bay didn’t get the help it needed from Jacksonville Armada FC to win the Spring Season, but it will head into the midseason break with plenty of momentum thanks to their biggest win of the season. The Rowdies needed Jacksonville to beat the New York Cosmos to have a chance at overturning a goal differential deficit, but the Armada could only pull off a 3-3 draw. The Cosmos won the Spring Season with the result.
After a scoreless first half, a few slight tactical adjustments to help the pace of play by head coach Thomas Rongen helped Corey Hertzog, Martín Núñez and Georgi Hristov all score goals in the second half to lead the Rowdies to victory.
"We wanted to get into the break with a win," Rongen said. "Somewhere in the back of our minds, we talked if we could get to one, two, or three goals up and something happened in the (Cosmos) game, that would be great, but that was not our intent. Our intent was to get three points."
Atlanta nearly took a surprise lead in the 56th minute when Shaka Bangura took a shot from a sharp angle that hit both the crossbar and a goal post before caroming out of danger.
From there, the Rowdies utterly dominated the match.
Hertzog opened the scoring on the hour mark after brilliant individual work from Darwin Espinal to create the go-ahead moment. Espinal departs for international duty with the Honduras U-23 team Sunday, but not before receiving the ball and taking his defender on one-on-one and beating him to create space for Hertzog at the near post. Hertzog thrusted his chest to the ball and deflected it inside the post for his second goal of the season.
"All week, the coaches have been telling me to go to the near post," Hertzog said. "When I saw Darwin taking his man on, the first thing that came to my head was to get to the near post. He shot it at me and I just tried to get anything on it. ... I hadn't scored since the first game and I've been working so hard all season. It feels good to go into that break with confidence."
Núñez doubled the lead with a superb free kick in the 75th minute, lifting the ball over the Silverbacks wall and dropping it back underneath the crossbar in a perfect spot from about 22 yards out. It was Nunez's third goal of the season, tying him with Maicon Santos for the team lead.
The Silverbacks were reduced to 10 men after forward Jaime Chavez -- who entered the match in the 79th minute -- received yellow cards in the 85th and 86th minutes to earn a quick dismissal.
Second-half substitute Georgi Hristov scored the last goal of the night, converting a penalty kick in the 89th minute after winger Robert Hernandez was fouled in the 18-yard box by Atlanta captain Simon Mensing. Hristov has now scored in seven consecutive matches against the Silverbacks.
Tampa Bay's fourth clean sheet of the Spring ensure the Rowdies head into the break unbeaten at home and on a seven-match NASL unbeaten streak.
"We've worked very hard to keep clean sheets and look after each other on the pitch," center back Tamika Mkandawire said. "We defended as a team, starting from the front. We have a great set of guys and we work really hard on the training pitch with our coaches."
The Rowdies ended the Spring Season with 19 points, one shy of New York's 20. 

Scoring Summary
Rowdies: Corey Hertzog - 60th minute (Assisted by Darwin Espinal)
Rowdies: Martin Nuñez - 75th minute
Rowdies: Georgi Hristov - 89th minute (Penalty Kick)

Rowdies: Pickens; King, Antonijevic (Chavez 73'), Mkandawire (c), Sweat; Guerra, Shriver, Núñez (Hristov 81'); Hernandez, Hertzog, Espinal (Michaud 90')
Atlanta Silverbacks: Ceus; Miller, McKenzie, Mensing (c), Black; Oppong; Reed, Denissen (Chavez 79'), Harlley (Porter 46'); Horth, Bangura (Okafor 68')

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Rowdies vs. FC Edmonton

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (June 6, 2015) -- The Tampa Bay Rowdies live to play another game following a vital 2-1 win over FC Edmonton at Al Lang Stadium on Saturday night.
A draw or loss would have eliminated the Rowdies from the race to win the NASL Spring Season title. Goals by Darwin Espinal and Brian Shriver in front of 4,961 fans ensured that the Rowdies head into next week's Spring finale with a chance at winning the title and clinching an automatic berth in The Championship, the NASL's four-team postseason tournament.
To win the Spring Season title next week, the Rowdies will need a little help. Tampa Bay must beat the Atlanta Silverbacks, Jacksonville Armada FC must beat the New York Cosmos and the Rowdies must erase their six-goal deficit in goal differential against the Cosmos.
"We can determine our own fate in terms of winning games," Rowdies Head Coach Thomas Rongen said. "We need a little help, I understand that. We set out to, in this home stretch of two games, get six points. We've got three now with another good team in Atlanta coming here next week. Let the chips fall where they may."
Severely shorthanded by suspensions, red cards and international duty, the Rowdies still selected an aggressive lineup. Tampa Bay was without five players that started last week's 2-2 draw against the Indy Eleven. Shriver and Gale Agbossoumonde each made their first start of the season, with midfielder Marquez Fernandez making his professional debut as a second-half susbsitute.
The front four of forwards Darwin Espinal, Corey Hertzog and Robert Hernandez, as well as Brian Shriver in midfield, put Edmonton's defense under heavy pressure all night.
"We connected really well," Espinal said. "We just understand each other and it was fun playing. It was the funnest group that I've ever played with. I enjoyed it a lot."
Espinal got the night started in the 37th minute, pouncing on a loose ball for his second goal of the season. Hertzog had fired a shot from the endline that was saved at the near post by Eddies goalkeeper John Smits, but Smits was unable to hold onto the ball, leaving it for Espinal to poke into the net from close range.
The Rowdies doubled their lead on the hour mark with Shriver scoring his first goal of the season. Hernandez won Tampa Bay a free kick outside the corner of the 18-yard box. Hertzog fired a shot on goal, which Smits punched to the arc at the top of the box, where Shriver collected and blasted the ball into the top corner of the net for a 2-0 lead.
"I was having fun out there," Shriver said. "It was the first time I've gotten to play significant minutes in a game this year, so it was a chance to show what I can do. I saw the ball coming right to me, and I thought I needed to take a good first touch and get a clean shot off. I hit it nice and I was hoping it would get through the traffic. There were a lot of bodies in front of the net. Once it went through and hit the back of the net, it was a great feeling."
The two-goal advantage didn't last long, as Eddies midfielder Lance Laing expertly curled a ball past Rowdies goalkeeper Matt Pickens into the far netting just four minutes later to cut the Rowdies lead to 2-1. 
Tampa Bay held on to its lead though and closed the match well to earn all three crucial points.

Scoring Summary:
Rowdies: Darwin Espinal - 37th minute (unassisted)
Rowdies: Brian Shriver - 60th minute (unassisted)
FC Edmonton: Lance Laing - 64th minute (unassisted)

Rowdies: Pickens; King, Agbossoumonde (Boggs 84'), Mkandawire (c), Sweat; Guerra, Shriver, Núñez (Chavez 71'); Hernandez (Fernandez 90'), Hertzog, Espinal
FC Edmonton: Smits; Edward, Roberts, Watson (c), Moses; Nyassi, Burt (Boakai 68'), Raudales (Granitto 71'), Jones, Laing; Jonke (Nonni 84')

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Rowdies vs. Indy Eleven

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (May 30, 2015) -- The Tampa Bay Rowdies and Indy Eleven tied 2-2 on Saturday night at Michael A. Carroll Stadium in Indianapolis. The Rowdies seemed poised for a win deep in stoppage time, but an Indy goal in the eighth minute of stoppage time saw the teams split the points.
Indy Eleven took the lead in the 22nd minute off a goal by midfielder Dylan Mares, but defender Rich Balchan would find the equalizer for Tampa Bay late in the first half, setting the stage for an unpredictable second half.
It seemed like the Rowdies would steal all three points after forward Maicon Santos scored the go-ahead goal for the Rowdies, but Indy Eleven defender Kyle Hyland had other plans. As the match entered the 98th minute, Hyland blasted a strike into the upper 90 to level the match at 2-2. The Rowdies finished the game playing with 8 men after three second half red cards.
The match was halted in the 22nd minute due to lightning in the area for two hours and three minutes. 
It was Indy Eleven that started on the right foot, creating most of the chances in the first couple minutes of the match. Despite Indy pushing numbers forward, the Rowdies defense was able to contain all attacks. That would change in the 22nd minute when midfielder Brian Brown layed off a pass to Mares, who placed his shot at the far post far away from Rowdies goalkeeper Matt Pickens.
Immediately after the goal, the referee stopped the match due to lightning in the area. After a delay of two hours and three minutes, the teams came back onto the pitch to resume the match.
The Rowdies used the delay to regroup and come out stronger from the whistle. In the 28th minute forward Corey Hertzog had the first clear chance for the Rowdies, entering the 18-yard box and firing a shot just over the cross bar.
Just before the 40th minute, Balchan found space outside the 18-yard box and striked the ball towards Indy Eleven's goal. His shot deflected off defender Cory Miller and trickled into the net. This is Balchan's first goal with the Rowdies.
As the second half got underway, the Rowdies once again were under pressure by an Indy Eleven offense that wanted to regain the lead. Pickens made the first important save of the half in the 57th minute, when midfielder Victor Pineda curled his free kick on frame but the Rowdies keeper was there to push it wide of the net.
It was in the 68th minute when the Rowdies took the lead for the first time on the night. Midfielder Georgi Hristov serviced a perfect corner kick into the heart of the box finding a wide open Santos. The Brazilian redirected the cross with a beautiful header at the far post.
It wouldn't end well for Santos, as in the 73rd minute he would receive a red card for some extra curricular activities after a foul was called. As the Rowdies protected the one-goal lead, defender Stefan Antonijevic was issued a second yellow card and the ensuing red in the 89th minute.
In the dying moments of the match, Hyland found space from around 35 yards out and fired a shot into the top right corner of the net. Moments after the equalizer, the Rowdies were down to eight men as Hristov received a red card.

Scoring Summary:
Indy Eleven: Dylan Mares - 22nd minute (Assisted by Brian Brown)
Rowdies: Rich Balchan - 40th minute (Assisted by Georgi Hristov)
Rowdies: Maicon Santos - 68th minute (Assisted by Georgi Hristov)
Indy Eleven: Kyle Hyland - 90+8th minute

Indy Eleven: Nicht; Franco, Miller (Melgares 81'), Janicki (C), Hyland; Keller (Ring 34'); Stojkov (Wojcik 85'), Mares, Brown, Pineda; Rugg
Rowdies: Pickens; Balchan, Mkandawire (C), Antonijevic, Sweat; Guerra, Menjivar; Hristov; Hertzog (Hernandez 65', Agbossoumonde 90+'), Santos, Espinal (King 79')