ST. PETERSBURG, FL – The Tampa Bay Rowdies conceded first but came out on top 4-1 at the final whistle versus Monterey Bay FC on Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium.
Tampa Bay kicked off the match with only five players available off of the bench. Midfielder Abel Caputo, who was originally intended to start the match, was scrapped due to a knock received in training on Friday and was replaced by Freddy Kleemann in the starting lineup. Caputo is another in a litany of injuries the Rowdies have had to contend with this year.
“Tonight is a testament to the squad with the way they took all the adjustments on board and delivered the performance they did tonight,” said Rowdies Head Coach Nicky Law. “It’s unbelievable really. I can’t praise that group of players and staff enough for the work they’re doing at the minute and still churning out wins. We’ve just gotta keep grinding those out.”
Monterey were the first to strike in the match. In the 28th minute, Tampa Bay failed to adequately clear a free kick lobbed in into the box, allowing Chase Boone to send the ball back into the fray for Mobi Fehr to convert. Fehr’s shot took a fortunate deflection off the leg of defender Forrest Lasso to beat keeper Connor Sparrow.
Fehr’s strike was the last whiff of goal Monterey would see in the match. Following that, Tampa Bay held the visitors to no more shots on goal while peppering Monterey’s goal with 10 shots themselves.
Tampa Bay’s comeback kicked off just as the halftime break neared when captain Aaron Guillen was tugged down in the box by defender Kai Greene. Midfielder Charlie Dennis calmly stepped up to the spot and buried his shot to put the Rowdies on level terms.
At 1-1, the Rowdies came out of the break roaring to pull ahead with two goals in the first 15 minutes of the second half. Irishman Jordan Doherty was the facility on the go-ahead goal in the 51st minute, driving forward toward the endline before centering a pass at the last moment for Jake LaCava to smash past the keeper. Seven minutes later, midfielder Yann Ekra initiated the sequence leading to the third goal. Ekra stripped a defender of the ball and poked it forward for JJ Williams, who brought the ball into the box and fired off a shot that took a deflection before nestling into the back of the net.
“It was a sloppy goal for us to give away but the reaction was great,” said Law. “That goal right before halftime was huge. It gave the guys a boost to come out in the second half and put things to bed early.”
With a two-goal lead, the Rowdies were able to comfortably ride out the rest of the night and add a fourth tally in the 88th minute. Veteran attacker Ariel Martinez nabbed his first of the season just a few minutes after entering off the bench, calmly depositing a one-timed shot into the goal off a pass from LaCava.
“All in all, no complaints about the performance tonight,” said Law. “It was a great response from last week’s loss. It was a good 3 points, a much needed 3 points and we can look ahead to what’s to come.”
The Rowdies are back in action on Friday when the travel to face FC Tulsa at 9 pm ET.
MB – Fehr, 28th minute
TBR – Dennis (penalty), 45+6’
TBR – LaCava (Doherty), 51st minute
TBR – Williams (Ekra), 58th minute
TBR – Martinez (LaCava), 88th minute
TBR: Sparrow, Kleemann, Lasso, Guillen, Antley, Doherty, Ekra, Areman, LaCava, Dennis, Williams
MB: Hererra, Doner, Greene, Roberts, Martinez, Murphy, Baca, Fehr, Boone, Dixon, Okoli