The Tampa Bay Rowdies rallied for two goals in the second half of Sunday’s match versus Monterey Bay FC to secure all three points in a 2-1 result at Cardinale Stadium, snapping the club’s four-match losing streak away from home. With the win, the Rowdies pull within three points of Memphis 901 FC for second place in the USL Championship Eastern Conference standings.
The win capped off a long week for the Rowdies, who had to contend with disruptions from Hurricane Ian throughout the week. When Tampa Bay appeared to be directly in the path of the storm early in the week, players evacuated their homes as the club’s midweek match versus El Paso Locomotive FC was pushed to October 12. Tampa Bay’s trip to Monterey was then postponed a day to ensure the team would be able to travel in time for the match.
“There’ve been some great moments of resiliency and tonight was probably one of our biggest,” said Rowdies Head Coach Neill Collins. “It’s hard to quantify for the people outside of Florida, but I think anyone inside Florida would take their hat off to the team tonight and I certainly would. Even despite what we had during the week, tonight’s performance showed a lot of character. These are the basic values we’re all about. They should take a lot of confidence from this night. Pride is my overriding feeling for tonight, for the way the team performed in the second half.”
Through the first 45 minutes of the match, it did not look as if the Rowdies would be able to bring any points home back to Tampa Bay. A giveaway in Tampa Bay’s own half of the field allowed the hosts to slip into the back and set up Sam Gleadle for a finish into the top right corner.
The deficit would have been much steeper at halftime if not for the efforts of keeper Phil Breno. Making just his second start of the season since CJ Cochran suffered a fractured tibia, Breno made seven stops in the first 45 minutes to keep Monterey at bay, including two diving saves in the first ten minutes of the match.
“The players all gave Phil a round of applause when they came in, because Phil’s been given a real tough task replacing someone like CJ. He’s stepped in and taken to the team like a duck to water. We didn’t expect him to be as busy as he was tonight, especially early on, but he stepped up. You need your goalkeeper now and again. Tonight we needed ours and he kept us in the game.”
Tampa Bay made three changes at the break, one of which paid off immediately. In the 48th minute, substitute Nicky Law leveled the match with an outstanding volleyed blast off the underside of the crossbar from a pass from Leo Fernandes.
Finally on level terms, the Rowdies continued to push and found a go-ahead goal in the 67th minute. Again, Fernandes provided the assist on the goal, finding Laurence Wyke on the back post for a free header into the net.
Once they were ahead, the Rowdies never allowed Monterey to significantly challenge Breno again. Confusion around the restart following a Monterey injury in stoppage time led to Fernandes committing a foul that earned him a straight red card. Even while playing down a man for the dying moments of the match, the Rowdies were able to ride out the result in their final road test of the regular season.
“I’ll tell you what, these boys have been through a lot this week,” said Collins. “I don’t think moving the game back one day was anything near adequate to compensate for what they’ve been through. Our team has been lucky through all this but our area has dealt with a very serious natural disaster. People have lost their lives, lost their homes. Our players are expected to come to work and take a 6 hour flight to play football. I’m proud of the way they handled themselves and the way they responded in the second half when it would’ve been easy to feel sorry for themselves.”
The Rowdies will now close out the regular season with a three-match homestand. First up, the Rowdies host Loudoun United FC on Hispanic Heritage Night at Al Lang Stadium. Tickets for the match can be purchased here or by calling 727-222-2000.
MB – Gleadle (Boone), 22’
TBR – Law (Fernandes), 49’
TBR – Wyke (Fernandes), 67’
TBR Yellow Card – Nicky Law, 87’
TBR Yellow Card – Robert Castellanos, 87’
TBR Red Card – Leo Fernandes, 90+7’
TBR: Breno; Scarlett, C. Antley (Castellanos, 46’), Guillen; Dalgaard (Areman, 84’), Wyke, Hilton, Fernandes; LaCava (Harris, 46’), Ekra (Law, 46’), Guenzatti (Greig, 84’)
MB: Siaha; Doner, Greene, Roberts, Robinson; Martinez (Rebollar, 75’), Fehr, Gleadle, Murphy (Basuljevic, 84’), Dawkins (Conneh, 76’); Boone