The Tampa Bay Rowdies recorded their sixth straight victory and extended their unbeaten streak to 12 matches with a 3-1 win over Indy Eleven at Michael Carroll Stadium on Saturday Night. Tampa Bay gave up the first goal, but rallied back to bag two before halftime and then a third in second half stoppage time to come away with three points.
“I thought we came out and really dominated the game in the second half,” said Rowdies Head Coach Neill Collins. “The biggest frustration for me was the players’ performances deserved the third goal much earlier than we got it. I know what football is like. One ball into the box, one bad bounce and you only come away with a point. Three points really never should have been in danger tonight. Credit to the players, they handled the lead very well and got that third goal that we deserved.”
Tampa Bay were two early blows in quick succession. First, midfielder Jake Areman was forced out with an injury while defending an Indy in the box. Conner Antley – returning from injury himself – entered off the bench in the 21st minute. Three minutes later, Indy took the lead off a cross from Jared Timmer and headed finish by Raul Aguilera.
“We started the night off alright,” said Rowdies Head Coach Neill Collins. “We turned the ball over well two or three times in their half and should have done better with those chances. Then we got caught with a poor giveaway. We didn’t defend fantastically well and they scored with what is obviously good play on their part, but from our point of view we were disappointed to be behind at that stage of the game. It was their first effort on goal, which seems to be a bit of a theme (this season).”
Even after conceding, the Rowdies continued to look like the side more likely to score. Steevan Dos Santos finally helped the Rowdies level the match in the 32nd minute. Jake LaCava drilled a shot toward the near post, forcing keeper Sean Lewis to make a stop. Unable to corral the ball, Lewis parried the ball into the center of the box and was then judged guilty of taking Dos Santos down as both charged for the loose ball. Dos Santos then stepped to the spot and converted for his fourth goal in three matches.
Dos Santos was a pivotal part of Tampa Bay’s go-ahead goal just before the break. In the 45th minutes, Dos Santos redirected a cross from Lewis Hilton on frame which was only denied by an outstanding diving save by Lewis. The rebound fell for Scarlett, who buried it into the back of the net.
Rowdies keeper CJ Cochran kept the lead intact in second half stoppage time with an superb save, parrying a powerful blast from Alexander McQueen out of danger.
From that point on the Rowdies controlled the match. A Solomon Asante strike in the 47th minute which harmlessly rolled out for a goal kick was Indy’s only shot attempt the rest of the night. Tampa Bay kept their hosts pinned down for most of the night with an aggressive, high press.
“It’s easy to take a step back when you’re leading, but I thought we stayed really brave,” said Collins. “We stayed high and kept making them turn the ball over. Really my only negative of the night is we should have put away one of those great chances we created. The performance then would’ve had the result to match, but we got there in the end. This is a really difficult environment to come into.”
The Rowdies return to Al Lang Stadium next Saturday, August 6 to host USL Championship newcomer Detroit City FC. Tickets for the match can be purchased here or by calling the Rowdies sales office at 727-222-2000.
IND – Aguilera (Timmer), 24’
TBR – Dos Santos (Penalty), 32’
TBR – Scarlett, 45’
TBR – Fernandes (Penalty), 90+6’
TBR: Cochran; Wyke, Scarlett, Guillen; Dalgaard (Harris, 77’), Hilton, Law (Ekra, 77’), Areman (Antley, 21’), LaCava, Dos Santos (Greig, 61’), Guenzatti (Fernadnes, 61’)
IND: Lewis; Timmer (Cochran, 76’), Jerome, Vazquez, Hackshaw; Ingram (Brown, 76’), Aguilera Jr. (Rivera, 64’), McQueen (Rebellon, 52’), Ayoze; Asante, Tejada