ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (April 2, 2017) — The Tampa Bay Rowdies climbed to the top of the United Soccer League’s Eastern Conference with an impressive 4-0 demolition of Toronto FC II on Saturday night at Al Lang.
Here’s a closer look at the result…
1. Goals, goals, goals
Saturday night marked just the third time the Rowdies have scored four goals in a competitive match since the start of the 2014 season. Tampa Bay’s most recent four-goal outing was in a 4-1 win over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in September of last year. In that match, Georgi Hristov scored the Rowdies’ only Modern Era hat trick.
Tampa Bay didn’t need a hat trick Saturday night with four different players all finding their way onto the scoresheet. Damion Lowe opened the scoring in the 12th minute, Hristov doubled it in the 20th and Joe Cole tallied just two minutes later.
Rowdies forward Deshorn Brown scored in the 70th minute, just four making after coming on in his Tampa Bay debut.
The win over Toronto FC II marked the Rowdies’ first 4-0 win since 2013.
2. To the top
The Eastern Conference's top eight teams
It’s very early, but the Rowdies have already made their mark in the USL by climbing to the top of the Eastern Conference standings. Tampa Bay and Charleston are the two Eastern Conference teams to have played twice and won twice to open the year. The Rowdies claim the top spot via a +5 goal differential, compared to +3 for the Battery.
Of note, the Rowdies have also kept clean sheets in both of their first two matches, courtesy of a stifling defense which has required goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald to make just two saves in two matches.
In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times prior to Saturday night’s win, Tampa Bay Head Coach Stuart Campbell said, “Right now teams look forward to coming here. The pitch is so nice, the surroundings. We want to turn that around. We want to make teams dread coming here."
The Rowdies may be starting to turn that corner now, having won their first two matches of the season for the first time in the Modern Era. This year also marks the first time the Rowdies have won each of their first two home matches. Tampa Bay will attempt to go 3-for-3 next weekend when it hosts Ottawa Fury FC in the final match of a three-game homestand.
3. Leo’s impact
You can’t help but feel sorry for Rowdies winger Leo Fernandes, who has been in two stellar performances but hasn’t scored or tallied an assist yet.
In the season opener on March 25, it was Fernandes’ dart into the box that drew the penalty converted by Georgi Hristov for the lone goal of the game.
Against TFC II last night, Fernandes was again impressive without finding a way onto the box score. He completed 84 percent of his passes, but managed just one shot on a night when nearly all of Tampa Bay’s attackers were clicking on all cylinders.
Below, see how effortless Fernandes looks as he races by multiple defenders to win the Rowdies a corner kick. Sooner or later, Fernandes will reap the rewards of his efforts.