ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (May 28, 2017) — The Tampa Bay Rowdies fought back for a well-earned draw Saturday night against Saint Louis FC, with Neill Collins scoring an 87th-minute equalizer.
Here’s Three Things from the match...
1. Fighting through fatigue
Saturday’s match presented an interesting dynamic in terms of rest levels for the teams. Saint Louis FC hadn’t played a USL match since May 13 and hadn’t played at all since a May 17 Lamar Hunt U.S Open Cup match, meaning Preki’s side was well-rested.
In the same period, the Rowdies played four matches, including a midweek match in Rochester that gave the Rowdies just 72 hours of rest before kickoff against Saint Louis.
With that in mind, you would have expected the Rowdies to start fast as the in-rhythm team as Saint Louis knocked off the rust. As the match progressed, the Rowdies would’ve been expected to fade away with heavy legs as the fresher Saint Louis side surged.
Instead, the Rowdies looked the much stronger team in the final 15 minutes. Tampa Bay scored three minutes from time and looked likely to tally a game-winner if a few more minutes of stoppage time were played.
“The best part of being a professional soccer player is playing games, especially on that pitch in front of those fans, who were excellent tonight,” Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell said. “They created a fantastic atmosphere and they were a big part of us getting back in the game. I don’t think we looked tired tonight. The team kept driving on and on and if there were another couple of minutes, I think we would’ve scored.”
2. Familiar faces back in the fold
Due to fixture congestion and with one eye on Wednesday’s upcoming U.S. Open Cup match against Miami FC, Campbell rotated his squad a bit to maintain the workload as evenly as possible amongst his regular starters.
Keith Savage and Tamika Mkandawire each made their first USL starts of the season and each put in quite the shift.
Savage completed 55 passes (eight long passes) at a clip of more than 90 percent (90.9), including an even 90 percent in Saint Louis’s half. He had six tackles, three interceptions and blocked one shot. As the match progressed and the Rowdies pushed for an equalizer, Savage picked up more of the defensive responsibilities as midfield partner Michael Nanchoff pushed further forward into the attack.
Mkandawire had four tackles, two clearances and six interceptions as the Rowdies didn’t concede from open play. He also won nine of his 15 duels.
3. Fernandes vs Charpie
One of the most exciting individual matchups on the field Saturday night was on the Rowdies’ left-hand side as Leo Fernandes went head-to-head against Saint Louis right back Wesley Charpie, a Tampa Bay area native playing at home for the first time as a pro.
The Fernandes vs. Charpie matchup was physical from the start with each player shown a yellow card for a challenge on the other within the first 12 minutes of the match.
Fernandes may have gotten the better of the battle with two nutmegs on Charpie.
Tampa Bay and Saint Louis won’t face each other again until August 13, but if Charpie and Fernandes match up again, it’s a battle worth keeping a close eye on.