The Tampa Bay Rowdies registered their fifth straight victory on Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium, scoring three unanswered goals to knock off Atlanta United 2 3-1. With the win, the Rowdies extended their unbeaten run to 11 straight matches and moved within one point of Louisville City FC for the top spot in the USL Championship’s Eastern Conference.
While the Rowdies claimed all three poinst and notched three goals, Head Coach Neill Collins was still frustrated to see his team pull away even more considering they took 29 shots in the match.
“We just really need to take our opportunities to win the game and take the game away from them,” said Collins. “There were lots of positives. We’ve got high expectations. There’s a lot of things we want to improve, but the players got the job done.”
Tampa Bay dominated the opening stages of the match but still found themselves down a goal after 14 minutes when the visitors pounced an opportunistic counter attack. The sequence started with Efrain Morales fouling Tampa Bay’s Leo Fernandes, who went to ground in pain. The Rowdies’ Jake Areman kicked the ball forward expecting to hear a whistle but the referee allowed the Rowdies to play the advantage. Atlanta regained possession and fought to get the ball past midfield while most of the Rowdies were still anticipating play to be stopped while Fernandes remained on the ground. Atlanta kept playing, and Darwin Matheus finished off the counter with a deft strike past CJ Cochran.
“I don’t think it’s an advantage when your player is lying on the floor and the other players get booked for the foul. I’ve seen so many times this season where the game’s been stopped because the player’s lying on the ground. Regardless of that, we should have defended the situation better. There were some moments we could have defended better.”
Steevan Dos Santos finally broke the match open for the Rowdies in the 25th minute. After initially springing Sebastian Dalgaard into the box with a well-weight pass, Dos Santos latched onto a rebound chance after Fernandes had a shot blocked and smashed into the back of the net.
Dos Santos struck again in the 38th minute. This time, Fernandes guided a cross right on the money to the head of Dos Santos, who nodded it down and past keeper Justin Garces. It’s the first brace of the year for Dos Santos, following up on his goal in last week’s road win at Loudoun.
The Rowdies target-man may be hitting his stride again after missing a large chunk of matches with an injury he suffered in May.
“Steevan’s worked hard to sustain his fitness during his injury,” said Collins. “He got his goals tonight, he got his goal last week. He’s a great finisher. Steevan’s proven that, so very pleased for him. He’ll know he’s left a few goals out there. Hopefully he’ll get them back between now and the end of the season.”
Tampa Bay never relented after going up but could only add a third goal from the penalty spot. Atlanta’s Nelson Orji was guilty of the fould in the box, sticking his foot in to trip up Fernandes, who stepped to the spot and slotted his attempt to the right as Garces went the opposite direction. The tally is Fernandes’ 11th of the season.
The Rowdies hit the road next Saturday face off against Indy Eleven before returning to Al Lang Stadium on Saturday, August 6 at 7:30 p.m. ET to battle Detroit City FC. Tickets for the match against Detroit can be purchased here or by calling the Rowdies sales office at 727-222-2000.
ATL – Matheus, 14’
TBR – Dos Santos, 25’
TBR – Dos Santos (Fernandes), 38’
TBR: Cochran; Vancaeyezeele, Scarlett, Guillen; Dalgaard, Hilton, Wyke, Areman; LaCava, Dos Santos, Fernandes
ATL: Garces; Rodrigues-Lopes, Cobb, Orji; Brennan, Fortune, Morales; Mejia, Matheus, Trager, Conway