The Tampa Bay Rowdies are undefeated in their last ten matches after securing a 2-1 road win over Las Vegas Lights FC on Saturday night. Forward JJ Williams propelled the Rowdies to victory with a long-range rocket in the final minutes of the match.
“We’ve got to give the team credit for sticking together and making sure we were still in the game despite not being at our best,” said Rowdies Head Coach Neill Collins. “Those were two moments of quality that got us the goals. It’s a match we have some lessons to learn from, but equally it’s one we’ll move on from quickly. To pick up seven points from three straight road games is a big effort.”
Tampa Bay’s Cal Jennings opened the scoring in the 14th minute. Back in familiar territory, the former Las Vegas striker touched a long throw-in from teammate Conner Antley forward into the box before burying his next touch into the back of the net with the outside of his left boot.
However, the Rowdies failed to turn the go-ahead goal into more chances on net as Las Vegas continually pushed into dangerous areas. In the 24th minute, the hosts leveled the match when a cross from Andrew Carleton found the head of Timothie Zali. Unmarked in front of goal, Zali put his header on frame and was denied by keeper Connor Sparrow, but the rebound fell for him to tap across the line.
“It’s very unlike us to leave someone unmarked right in front of goal,” said Collins. “Connor Sparrow made a fantastic save and the rebound was tapped in with no one close to it. Outside of that I don’t think we gave up loads of opportunities. I don’t think either team had loads of opportunities. I felt either one moment of magic or a mistake was going to win it for either team.”
Charlie Dennis had the only other looks at goal for Tampa Bay in the first half. Williams slid a pass across the box for Dennis in the 30th minute, but the Englishman’s shot was denied by a sliding clearance. Eight minutes later, Dennis tried his luck from distance, firing a shot that glanced off a defender’s head before keeper Alan Diaz swatted it off the line.
The Rowdies went without putting another shot on target until Williams’ winner in the 86th minute. Charging forward with the ball, center back Freddy Kleemann found Antley out on the right wing. Antley then carried the ball further down the sideline before threading a pass through three defenders for Williams in the center of the field. With his first touch, Williams cushioned the ball to his right and turned to launch a 25-yard rocket that nestled between the keeper and the right post.
The tally was Williams’ team-leading seventh goal of the season so far.
“I one hundred percent thought we could still win the game,” said Collins. “I think we’ve got a lot of players on the field that can do special things. We have people that can create those moments. I definitely felt that we still had a moment in us to win the game. We might not have seen it coming building up to that point, but I felt we were more than capable of it. Thankfully JJ produced that moment and we were able to take home the three points.”
Sparrow made sure to secure the full three points in the final minute of stoppage time with a firm save at the near post on a last-ditch effort by Pato Botello Faz. The Rowdies keeper finished with four total saves on the night to limit Las Vegas to just one goal.
With the win the Rowdies improved to 31 points on the season. The Rowdies sit third in the Eastern Conference standings at the end of the weekend but they are even on points with first-place Charleston and second-place Pittsburgh.
Next up, the Rowdies return home to Al Lang Stadium for a matchup against Oakland Roots SC on Saturday, July 8 at 7:30 p.m. ET. Tickets for the match can be purchased by clicking here.
TBR – Jennings (Antley), 14’
LV – Zali, 24’
TBR – Williams (Antley), 86’
TBR: Sparrow, Antley, Kleemann, Lasso, Guillen, Doherty, Areman (Ekra, 85′), Dennis (Harris, 46′), LaCava (Mkosana, 85′), Jennings (Dalgaard, 71′), Williams
LV: Diaz, Stauffer, Mitrano, Carroll, Zali, Bushue, Ingram, Ledesma, Carleton, Oteng, Etaka