The Tampa Bay Rowdies lost 1-0 to Sporting Kansas City in the final group match of the Disney Pro Soccer Classic. With the loss, the Rowdies will play Orlando City SC next Saturday at 6:00 pm in their final match of the Disney Pro Soccer Classic.
The lone goal came in the 76th minute from attacking midfielder Graham Zusi, who slotted the ball next to the right post. Rowdies goalkeeper Andrew Fontein was close to getting a touch on it, but Zusi’s shot was well placed.
The Rowdies had a solid performance in the first half closing down Sporting’s main attacking threat Zusi. Tampa Bay looked more solid than both of the previous games with a strong defensive block, denying any dangerous chances.
"We were able to move the ball around much more than in previous games," said Rowdies head coach Ricky Hill. "I felt the team was more comfortable in tonight's match, controlling possesion at certain points during the game."
The defending NASL champions had the first dangerous chance in the 9th minute, with midfielder Shane Hill slotting a ball into forward Devin Del Do, but he was unable to reach the ball before Sporting goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen.
Midfielder Luke Mulholland had a great first half, placing several dangerous crosses into Sporting’s box but their defense did a good job in clearing the ball out. Fontein was able to contain many of Kansas City’s crosses and shots, maintaining a strong defensive performance in the first half.
The second half started with the Rowdies pressuring Sporting KC up top trying to create turnovers that would lead to scoring opportunities. Kansas City’s first chance of the half came in the 53rd minute with a header from inside the 6-yard box but Fontein contained it easily.
"It is difficult to pressure an MLS squad the entire match with just two weeks of preseason under our belt," stated Hill. "Our players were able to hold Sporting KC, limiting their chances on goal. We have to continue to work hard on our defensive block, as it will help lower the shots goal that our opponents may have."
The Rowdies controlled possession in the first part of the second half, producing good ball movement by the midfield. Tampa Bay was unable to access the final third until 64th minute after a cross by defender Thurstan Johnson that Mulholland was unable to volley on goal.
With Kansas City picking up momentum, they began creating chances with dangerous crosses into the box. Zusi was able to break through the Rowdies defense and score in the 76th minute after a good individual run into the box.
After Sporting’s goal, the Rowdies began to maintain possession of the ball looking for the equalizer. Midfielder Evans Frimpong had two crosses in the final 10 minutes of play, earning two corner kicks as the game came to an end. The final push from the Rowdies was unsuccessful, as Sporting KC held on for the 1-0 win.
"After their goal, we did not lose our focus and we constantly looked for the equalizer," commented Hill. "Evans made a few good runs, sending dangerous crosses into the box. We were unable to capitalize on our chances, but I felt that the team chemistry is coming together."
The Rowdies close their participation in the Disney Pro Soccer Classic when they face Orlando City Soccer Club on Saturday, February 23 at 6:00pm at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
GK Andrew Fontein; D Thurstan Johnson, D Jay Needham, D Takuya Yamada, D Andres Arango; M Evans Frimpong, M Luke Mulholland, M Shane Hill, M Jemal Johnson; F Devin Del Do, F Sercan Guvenisik
GK Jimmy Nielsen, D Mechack Jerome, D Aurelien Collin, D Matt Besler, D Seth Sinovic, M Oriol Rosell, M Benny Feilhaber, M Pauo Nagamura, F Graham Zusi, F Claudio Bieler, F C.J. Sapong.