The Tampa Bay Rowdies and Oakland Roots SC finished in a scoreless stalemate on Saturday night at Laney Stadium, but not without exchanging a few thrilling last-minute challenges to close out the night.
“Disappointed in the performance but you’ve got to keep it in perspective,” said Rowdies Head Coach Neill Collins. “We had a disappointing night, but you’ve got to give the boys credit that even when we had a disappointing night we could’ve won it. Just as much as we could have lost it, we could have won it… That says a lot about the team as well, that when we’re not at our best we give ourselves opportunities to win the game.”
In the end, CJ Cochran brightest for the Rowdies, recording four saves to secure his third shutout of the season and keep the Rowdies unbeaten through their first five matches.
“This is why you want a good goalkeeper in net,” said Collins. “You know, CJ hasn’t had to face many shots this year, but from time to time through the season you’re going to have nights like tonight where you’re going to have to rely on (the keeper) to make saves for you and CJ did that tonight.”
Oakland started the night on the front foot by nearly jumping out to a lead in the 8th minute, but were denied the go-ahead tally by Cochran. Óttar Karlsson initiated the sequence with a dangerou cross from the left flank for Charlie Dennis at the back post. Dennis skipped his head off the turf and onto frame only to watch Cochran swat it away with his left hand.
Scoring chances were hard to come by for the Rowdies, who struggled to find their way through consistent pressure from the hosts in midfield. Despite controlling possession, Oakland was also unable to create many chances on goal in the first half until the 41st minute when Edgar Rito slipped past Leo Fernandes on the endline and centered a pass to Karlsson. The Oakland attacker put some pace behind his strike to the near post but was denied with an outstanding parry from Cochran.
“I thought we struggled to get pressure on the ball in the areas we like to get pressure on the ball,” said Collins. “Then on top of that I thought we made elementary mistakes. I’ll need to watch back, but I’m sure three or four of their opportunities came from us making basic turnovers in critical areas of the field, something we’re very rarely guilty of.”
Oakland continued to hold the Rowdies at bay until the 82nd minute, which is when Rowdies captain Sebstian Guenzatti earned the first shot on goal of the night as he fired a strike from the top of the box at keeper Benny Diaz. Guenzati made way for substitute Kyle Greig shortly after that, but the Rowdies continued to gain momentum. Juan Tejada and Greig were both thwarted by good stops from Diaz, Tejada with a low strike and Greig with a header at the near post.
The hosts found their chances late, as well. However, Cochran came through for the Rowdies with two more saves to keep Oakland off the scoresheet.
“The main issue is we just didn’t do the basics very well,” said Collins. “It’s just one of those ones where we’re going to have to learn a few lessons, me included, and get back home. We’ve got three home games coming up and we need to just do better. I think we’ll look back at this as an important point.”
Tampa Bay returns home for a matchup with USL League Two’s The Villages SC in the Second Round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday, April 5 at Al Lang Stadium. Tickets are just $15 and can be purchased here. Following that the Rowdies have a meeting with in-state rival Miami FC at Al Lang on Saturday, April 9 and then a date with FC Tulsa the following Saturday. Tickets for that match can be purchased at rowdiessoccer.com
Rowdies: Cochran; Scarlett, Antley, Guillen; Dalgaard, Hilton, Ekra, Wyke, Fernandes; LaCava, Guenzatti
Oakland: Diaz; Fuenmaroy, Morad, Barir; Rito, Fissore, Hernandez, Azocar; Dennis, Karlsson, Mfeka