SAN ANTONIO, Texas (October 8, 2017) — The Tampa Bay Rowdies picked up a point from their only regular season match against Western Conference opposition on Saturday night, drawing 1-1 against San Antonio FC at Toyota Field.
Here’s Three Things from the match.
1. Georgi’s half century
Georgi Hristov became the first player in modern Rowdies history to score 50 goals on Saturday, netting his historic 50th in the same stadium he scored his first.
Georgi’s first goal in green and gold was a penalty kick converted in the north end of the stadium on April 14, 2013 to help Tampa Bay to a 2-0 win over the San Antonio Scorpions on Toyota Field’s opening night five seasons ago.
His 50th came in the north end last night and nearly helped the Rowdies to another big win deep in the heart of Texas.
Hristov’s goal came in the 69th minute, breaking a 0-0 deadlock and putting Tampa Bay ahead. The Rowdies held that lead until the 88th minute, but couldn’t quite secure the victory.
Still, after the emotion of dropping points fades away, Hristov should be able to reflect proudly on his 50th goal for the Rowdies.
2. Where we stand
Tampa Bay could’ve sealed a top four seed and a home playoff game Saturday night with a win but the late goal conceded means it’s all still to play for Thursday night in the Rowdies’ regular season finale.
The Rowdies slipped to third place this weekend due to the Charleston Battery’s resounding 4-0 win over the Harrisburg City Islanders, but Tampa Bay is still well-positioned to earn at least one home playoff game and maybe even sneak into second place in the USL’s Eastern Conference.
The Rowdies trail the Battery by one point heading into the last week of the season, meaning a Tampa Bay win in Orlando next week will see the Rowdies move two points ahead of Charleston and five points ahead of the Charlotte Independence. Charleston and Charlotte play each other Saturday night in North Carolina.
Rochester hosts the Bethlehem Steel on Wednesday night and can pull even on points with the Rowdies if it wins.
The table is tight, but we now know the Rowdies will finish somewhere between second place and fifth. Second place would mean home field advantage in the first two rounds of the playoffs. Third or fourth would guarantee at least one home game, while finishing fifth would see Tampa Bay open the postseason on the road. If the Rowdies host in the first round, the match will be played Saturday, October 21 at 7:30 p.m.
It’s all to play for in the final week of the regular season.
3. Disappointing ending, but a strong showing
While conceding late makes it feel like a loss, Tampa Bay still has a lot to be proud of from Saturday night’s performance in a playoff-like challenge.
With two homes game remaining against non-playoff teams, San Antonio FC is likely to finish second in the Western Conference and boasts one of the best defenses in the United Soccer League, so the Rowdies’ match at Toyota Field was a good analogue for the postseason ahead. It provided a nice dress rehearsal for Stuart Campbell’s side.
SAFC goalkeeper Diego Restrepo is just one clean sheet away from a new USL record for clean sheets and is a strong contender for the USL Golden Gloves award for best goals-against-average.
Still, the Rowdies — playing their fifth match in 15 days and with five new starters from Wednesday’s match — took it to the home team, coming up just a few minutes short of giving San Antonio only its second home loss of 2017.
That level of performance, if sustained for the full 90 minutes, will prove difficult for anyone meeting the Rowdies in the playoffs.