Rowdies Savor Electric Crowd Support in Home Opener
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Al Lang Stadium rocked downtown St. Petersburg on Saturday night as more than 7,000 green-and-gold fans watched the Tampa Bay Rowdies kick off their whole new era with a 1-1 draw against FC Edmonton.
The Rowdies took a first-half lead when Eddies defender Kareem Moses deflected a ball into his own net in the 34th minute. Edmonton drew level in the 88th minute via a goal scored by Tomi Ameobi.
Tampa Bay goalkeeper Matt Pickens, a 10-year Major League Soccer veteran said, apart from the result, Saturday night exceeded his expectations.
“It was a good home opener,” he said. “It was similar to other home openers I’ve played. There’s a lot of energy and a lot of people who’ve been waiting a long time to see the team play. The fans applauded our effort and we’re looking forward to more games. I hope they saw a little bit of what we’re all about. We want to continue to get better every day so the fans get what they pay for.”
Another new Rowdie, midfielder Darel Russell was impressed with the matchday intensity.
“It was a fantastic reception from the fans coming in to support us,” he said. “When I went out on the field, I thought (the atmosphere) felt brilliant. It felt like a football stadium. With that view out onto the water, it’s a fantastic location for a stadium.”
The addition of the new seats along the touchline help to close in the seating and add even more intensity to an atmosphere already revered by players as one of the best in the North American Soccer League.
“You can’t even compare it (to last year,)” forward Georgi Hristov said. “It’s totally different. Every player dreams to play in front of that many people. 7,000 people is amazing. I hope it just gets better and better.”
The Rowdies goal, which was scored toward the west goal in front of the grandstand that includes the Ralph’s Mob seating section, may have been scored with some additional help, according to Russell.
“In that first half, when we were kicking toward our fans, it felt like they sucked the ball into the goal,” he said. “Frankie had that great header across the goal and (the fans’) support helped us edge forward.”
Hristov, too, credited the fans with boosting the team.
“They help us all the time,” he said. “They’re not only loud, they get rowdy in the seats, which is just perfect.”
The Rowdies return to Al Lang Stadium on Saturday, April 26 for a match against last year’s NASL runners-up, the Atlanta Silverbacks and will need your help to pick up all three points. Tickets are available by calling (877)-ROWDIES or by clicking here.