ST. PETERSBURG, FL – The Tampa Bay Rowdies made the most of their last home match of the month on Saturday night, dispatching New Mexico United 3-2 at Al Lang Stadium to extend their unbeaten run to seven matches. Tampa Bay’s Ryan Spaulding netted a brace, while midfielder Charlie Dennis recorded a goal and an assist in the result.
Rowdies veteran Sebastian Dalgaard also stood out in the match, which was his 100th appearance for the Green & Gold. Dalgaard notched an assist on Dennis’ goal and a key pass leading to Spaulding’s second tally.
“I was so pleased with the response tonight,” said Rowdies Head Coach Neill Collins. “Not our best performance but a good game against a team I thought, having just lost a coach, would come out with a bit of freedom and purpose. Second half, we really managed to take hold and start creating opportunities. I thought some of the play on the goals was fantastic. A real hard-earned three points and very important ones.”
The Rowdies looked as lethal as ever despite the fact that the club’s leading scorer JJ Williams was suspended for the match. Implementing a high press, the Rowdies broke through in the 18th minute when Dalgaard intercepted a ball that then fell for Dennis, who drove forward before threading a perfect through ball for Spaulding past keeper Alex Tambakis.
“It starts with our press,” said Spaulding. “That’s a big key for us. We did well and got a turnover in the middle third. Charlie had his head up and I was already on the goalside of the outside back guarding me so Charlie slipped me through. I saw he was a little bit heavy on his right foot so I just slotted it to the other corner.”
In a repeat of last week’s concession to Sacramento right before halftime, the Rowdies allowed New Mexico to level the match in first half stoppage time as Justin Portillo placed a dangerous free kick delivery on the back post for an unmarked Kalen Ryden to convert.
“It’s tough letting in goals right before halftime,” said Dalgaard. “We talked it out at halftime and came out strong to score two more… but we should have been more clinical in front of both goals.”
Unlike last week’s performance, the Rowdies were not deflated by the goal allowed and instead maintained their momentum throughout the second half. Dennis put the Rowdies back up in the 55th minute, burying a low strike into the bottom right corner off an assist from Dalgaard. Dennis is now tied with Williams with six tallies on the season.
Spaulding nabbed his second of the night and the eventual winner in the 70th minute. To start the sequence, Dalgaard picked out Laurence Wyke with a well-weighted through ball. The Englishman then cut back inside to lose his defender and center a pass for Spaulding to one-time into the back of the net.
The visitors pulled one back seven minutes later when Harry Swarts followed up on a rebound in the box after an initial save by Rowdies keeper Connor Sparrow, but the Rowdies were still able to ride out the result relatively comfortably.
“After we lost that second goal we never really looked like conceding again and looked likely to go on and win,” said Collins. “That was pleasing. We didn’t panic and we played out the game very well. I take my hat off to the players with the amount of games they’ve won recently. There’s not many teams in the league doing that. They’ve given us a real platform to build on for the second half of the season.”
Tampa Bay hits the road next week to face El Paso Locomotive FC, who are unbeaten in their last ten league matches and sit three points back of Sacramento Republic FC for the top spot in the Western Conference. Meanwhile, the Rowdies are now only two points behind Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, who took hold of first place in the Eastern Conference with a win over the Charleston Battery.
TBR – Spaulding (Dennis), 18’
NM – Ryden (Portillo), 45+1’
TBR – Dennis (Dalgaard), 55’
TBR – Spaulding (Wyke), 70’
NM – Swartz, 77’
TBR: Sparrow, Wyke, Kleemann, Lasso, Guillen, Doherty, Ekra, Dalgaard, Dennis, Spaulding, Jennings
NM: Tambakis, Swartz, Yearwood, Hamilton, Ryden, Moar, Portillos, Rivas, Wehan, Dolling, Bruce