The Tampa Bay Rowdies secured a point in the first road test of the season on Saturday night at Orange County SC’s Championship Soccer Stadium. Rowdies newcomer Zach Herivaux notched a late equalizer off of a corner kick sequence to seal a 1-1 result.
“It’s very difficult when you come out to the west coast,” said Rowdies Head Coach Neill Collins. “There’s no getting away from that, but we hung in there and kept going, kept putting our bodies on the line. It certainly wasn’t our prettiest performance ever, but I think that’s the kind of point that you need to try and grab and that we failed to do a couple of times last year. Lots to improve but you’ve got to be pleased with the point and be pleased with the attitude.”
As the match neared halftime, Orange County broke the deadlock through a strike from Emil Nielsen in the 40th minute. Rowdies center back Forrest Lasso made an initial stop on a cross sent in by the hosts from the right wing, but the rebound fell for Nielsen to bury into the back of the net.
Orange County threatened to double the deficit at the start of the second half as Kyle Scott sent a long range strike that Rowdies keeper Phil Breno stretched out to push wide.
Milan Iloski knocked on the door twice in the second half as well, but Breno and Rowdies captain Aaron Guillen both thwarted the 2022 USL Championship Golden Boot winner. Guillen stood his ground on the goal line to head away a blast from Iloski in the 60th minute, while Breno parried another Iloski effort away in the 77th minute.
“ Those were certainly big moments to help us secure a point,” said Collins. “There’s a lot of different ways to pick up points in football and it’s not always the prettiest. It’s not what we want to look like, but this is what those guys are there for, to defend the goal. They managed to keep a few really important chances out of the net.”
The Rowdies finally got back on level terms in the 82nd minute. Midfielder Charlie Dennis played a corner kick toward the near post that was flicked on toward the far post, where Herivaux was crashing to slam the ball across the line.
“That was two guys that just did exactly what we asked them to do in a game where it would have been easy not to,” said Collins. “They did exactly what we wanted and it resulted in a goal. It’s an important part of the game and we’ve been good at set pieces for a couple of years prior to last year. We want to make sure we’re good at that this year and we’ve got the personnel to do that.”
Tampa Bay returns to the east coast next Saturday but remains on the road for a bout against the Charleston Battery.
OC – Nielsen, 40’
TBR – Herivaux (Jennings), 82’
TBR: Breno; Doherty, Kleemann (Antley, 67’), Lasso, Guillen; Dalgaard (Schröter, 80’), Herivuax, Dennis, Areman (Harris, 45’); Jennings, Williams (Martinez, 45’)
OC: Cropper; Richards, Fox, Nikkim, Villanueva; Illoski, Partida, Powers, Scott (Dogham, 80’); Nielsen (Osundina, 67’), Chattha (Casiple, 57’)