ST. PETERSBURG, FL – The Tampa Bay Rowdies remained in their groove on Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium to record their second straight win, dispatching Phoenix Rising FC 2-0 off of goals from JJ Williams and Charlie Dennis.
“The players trained so well this week,” said Rowdies Head Coach Neill Collins. “To go out on the field and take all that training with them was so pleasing to see. A lot of them should be pleased with their week’s work and their performance tonight. As we know, it’s about building on that and sustaining that.”
Tampa Bay was on the front foot from the start and were rewarded with an early goal in the 10th minute. After hitting the post with an early header in last week’s match in Detroit, Williams would not be denied this time around. Charlie Dennis and Ryan Spauling combined well on the left wing to create the chance, with Spauling delivering the cross right on the mark to Williams to head home.
“The level was high tonight,” said Williams. “That’s the biggest thing for us. We wanted to start well and put the pressure on them. Once we did that we were able to win the ball in good spots and create chances from there. That’s how the Rowdies play, so it’s just about having more performances like that.”
From there the Rowdies continued to maintain a foothold throughout the first half. However, they had to wait until stoppage time to double the lead. As the halftime whistle neared, Dennis drew a foul a few yards outside the box in the center of the field. The Englishman then made the most of the opportunity with an immaculate curling free kick over the wall and into the back of the net.
“Sometimes you can look at the wall and it can be a little bit overwhelming if they’ve got a few 6-foot players in there,” said Dennis. “But I felt I could get the ball over the wall and down… I didn’t try to hit it with too much pace, it was more about accuracy to place it in the right position. It’s just like hitting a good drive in golf. You just know when you hit it well.”
The momentum remained in Tampa Bay’s favor in the second half, although a third goal eluded them. Spaulding probed the net with a low strike in the 54th minute that was saved by the keeper. Center back Freddy Kleeman also came close to nabbing a goal with two headed chances off of corner kicks that were sent just wide.
All in all, the Rowdies were thorough in closing out the result, aided by the fact that Phoenix played the final 12 minutes of the match down a man after Jackson Conway was shown a straight red card for throwing an elbow to Tampa Bay’s Conner Antley just a few minutes after entering off the bench.
The Rowdies attempted 22 shots to Phoenix’s 11 attempts, and guided seven of those on frame while the visitors only managed to direct two onto goal. The 2-0 result is Tampa Bay’s second consecutive clean sheet and their third overall on the season.
“A clean sheet starts at the front,” said Collins. “The work the boys at the front and in the midfield put in was great. When the defenders had to defend they did. Phoenix are a really good side. We worked ever so hard to be prepared for them tonight. I thought it was a very good game. We can be pleased with a night’s work, but we were made to work for it.”
Next up, the Rowdies remain at Al Lang Stadium to host Detroit City FC on Saturday, May 13 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for the match can be purchased here or by calling the Rowdies sales office during normal business hours at 727-222-2000.
TBR – Williams (Spaulding), 10’
TBR – Dennis, 45+1’
PHX – Red Card, Conway, 78’