ST. PETERSBURG, FL – The Tampa Bay Rowdies returned to the win column on Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium with a 2-1 win over Eastern Conference rival Louisville City FC. Forward Cal Jennings tallied both of Tampa Bay’s goals to continue his hot scoring streak. Jennings has now bagged six goals in his last five matches.
Rowdies Head Coach Nicky Law was unavailable again on Saturday due to personal reasons. Assistant Coach Eric Wilde served as acting head coach while Assistant Coach Stuart Dobson served a suspension for his red card in the team’s last-minute loss in Louisville on Wednesday.
“Everyone knows we could have done a better job closing out the game on Wednesday,” said Dobson. “Tonight, I couldn’t fault the guys at all for the way the guys played. They were fully focused for the full 90, which is exactly what we needed.”
For the first time in months, the Rowdies were able to field a full bench against Louisville. However, that full strength squad did not last through the first half as Conner Antley was forced out with an injury in the 35th minute.
Four minutes later, Jennings opened up the scoring shortly before halftime thanks to a sublime pass from Rowdies captain Aaron Guillen. Receiving a pass from Forrest Lasso, Guillen took one touch before launching a long ball over the back line. Louisville keeper Oliver Simmle came well out of his area to clear, but Jennings beat him to the punch with a deft touch and then a finish into the empty net.
Tampa Bay’s lead was short-lived. Seconds after the start of the second half, Louisville equalized with a Wilson Harris strike into the bottom left corner. If conceding straight out of the break wasn’t bad enough, the Rowdies also lost Guillen on the sequence as the Rowdies captain pulled up with an injury.
“Very disappointing to concede the first minute of the second half, but it was also the play that Aaron went down,” said Dobson. “It’s just one of those situations you can’t account for. You’ve just got to brush it off, which the guys did. It was a great response after Louisville scored. We just got back to our game and started possessing the ball well.”
The Rowdies found their way back in front with a beautiful passing sequence in the 61st minute. Starting with a goal kick, the Rowdies worked the ball around the field with a 15-pass sequence, culminating with a deadly cross by Jake Areman from the left flank that was redirected by Jennings into the top right corner.
“Tonight you saw resilience from the guys,” said Rowdies midfielder Jordan Doherty. “To go level straight after the break is not ideal at all, but you see the team spirit and the resilience we have after the tough defeat we have on Wednesday to go and beat a team like Louisville. Credit to the whole staff and team for that.”
With the win, the Rowdies keep pace with first-place Pittsburgh, who also won on Saturday night. Tampa Bay sits second in the conference, one point behind Pittsburgh and one point ahead of third-place Charleston. The Rowdies still have a game in hand on both Pittsburgh and Charleston.
“Three points anytime in the season, but especially now, is huge with us chasing home field advantage in the playoffs and the top seed in the east and the league,” said Jennings. “These three points were massive. The response was massive. We’ve got another tough one coming up next weekend so we’ve gotta be ready for that.”
Next up, the Rowdies travel to Texas to face last year’s champions, San Antonio FC on Saturday, September 16 at 8:30 p.m. ET.
TBR – Jennings (Guillen), 39’
LOU – Harris (Serrano), 46’
TBR – Jennings (Areman), 61’
TBR: Sparrow, Antley (Harris, 35’), Doherty, Kleemann, Lasso, Guillen (Areman, 48′), Hilton, Ekra, Dennis (Martinez, 79′), Perez (LaCava, 79′), Jennings (Williams, 79′)
LOU: Semmle, Perez, Totsch, Charpie, Adams, Serrano, Moguel, Wynder, DelPiccolo, Gonzalez, Harris