In spite of the fact that the Tampa Bay Rowdies found themselves trailing twice in Saturday’s road contest versus Loudoun United FC, Tampa Bay rallied to finish on top in a 4-2 result. With the win, the Rowdies extend their unbeaten run to nine matches and improve to 28 points on the year, two points back of Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
“The biggest positive of the night would be the character of the group,” said Rowdies Head Coach Neill Collins. “They showed resilience. To score four goals on the road said a lot about our ability to score chances. It certainly won’t go down as one of our best performances, but it could go down as one of our most important wins.”
The hosts jumped ahead only ten minutes into the match, with a well-placed pass from Aidan Rocha finding an unmarked Thomas Williamson to head into the back of the net.
Tampa Bay suffered another blow in the 21st minute when right wing back Sebastian Dalgaard was unable to continue due to injury. In response, Collins shifted Conner Antley up into Dalgaard’s spot and brought on Freddy Kleemann to replace Antley on the back line. Both players factored into Tampa Bay’s first equalizer of the night. A long throw-in from Kleemann allowed Antley to find space down the right wing before slipping a pass inside of Charlie Dennis. The Englishman then centered for Jake LaCava, who threaded a pass for the streaking Jake Areman to slot into the bottom right corner.
The Rowdies held the edge in possession through the rest of the first half but failed to translate the advantage into more scoring opportunities.
After the break, Loudoun came out reenergized to pull ahead again. They did just that in the 54th minute, capitalizing on Tampa Bay’s inability to sufficiently clear the ball out of danger as Williamson connected with Jackson Hopkins for the go-ahead goal.
In need of a spark, the Rowdies found it with the integration of substitutes Dayonn Harris and Cal Jennings. Harris broke open Loudoun’s defensive lines in the 69th minute with a cross whipped in from the right flank for Jennis to smash across the line. Nine minutes later, JJ Williams chased down a cross all the way to the left sideline. After winning the ball off the defender, Williams penetrated the box and waited patiently for Jennings to get into position on the far post. Jennings wisely pulled the ball back with his first touch to avoid a sliding defender and then promptly buried his shot.
“When you’ve five or six guys that are really off it, it makes it really difficult,” said Collins. “But when you’ve got special players to bring off the bench like we do, you’ve always got a chance. I think our substitutes should take a lot of credit for the way they came on and impacted the match.”
Jennigs remained a threat the rest of the night and forced Loudoun’s Daniel Chica into a foul outside the box that earned the defender a straight red card in the 86th minute. Up a man, the Rowdies iced the match with a fourth goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time when Jennings set LaCava up for a tap in finish.
“I think Loudoun will be pleased with many aspects of their performance, but it was maybe a bit of quality and experience mixed together that carried us over the line tonight,” said Collins. “We’ll take the three points and learn a couple of lessons.”
LDN – Williamson (Rocha), 10th minute
TBR – Areman (LaCava), 31st minute
LDN – Hopkins (Williamson), 54th minute
TBR – Jennings (Harris), 69th minute
TBR – Jennings (Williams), 78th minute
TBR – LaCava (Jennings), 90+4th minute
TBR – Jennings, Yellow Card, 83rd minute
LDN – Chica, Red Card, 86th minute
TBR – Lasso, Yellow Card, 88th minute
TBR: Sparrow, Antley, Lasso, Guillen, Doherty, Ekra (Jennings, 64’), Dlagaard (Kleemann, 21’), Dennis, LaCava, Areman (Harris, 64’), Williams
LDN: Jacomen, Sants, Zanne, Chica, Clark, Rocha, Landry, Garay, Ryan, Hopkins, Williamson