ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (June 8, 2019) – For much of the second half, it felt like the Tampa Bay Rowdies would rally from a 2-0 deficit to extend their unbeaten run and earn a tough result, but it wasn’t ultimately meant to be as the Rowdies fell 3-1 to North Carolina FC in this first loss of the USL Championship season.
Tampa Bay conceded in the first half and fell to 2-0 down in the 48th minute before coming to life in a big way. Rowdies midfielder Zach Steinberger cut the deficit to 2-1 with a chip over North Carolina goalkeeper Alex Tambakis in the 54th minute. Steven Miller’s goal for the visitors in the 77th minute put the game out of reach once and for all.
The Rowdies didn’t play poorly on the night, despite the score. Tampa Bay outshot North Carolina 17-4 and racked up nearly 60 percent possession in the loss. The Rowdies had conceded four goals in 13 league matches prior to Saturday and nearly allowed that total over the course of the 90 minutes.
“That’s football,” Rowdies Head Coach Neill Collins said. “You’ve got to give credit to North Carolina. They came here with a gameplan and the second goal gave them a great platform, but equally, there were moments in the game where we had some great play and just didn’t capitalize on it. That’s just football. It’s happened before and it’ll happen again. Hopefully we’re on the other end more often than not.”
Dre Fortune’s opening goal for North Carolina was basically the first chance of the match for either side. North Carolina took advantage of the Rowdies inability to clear a ball in the box and Nazmi Albadawi slipped the ball through the lines for Fortune to finish.
Tampa Bay had chances for the remainder of the first half but couldn’t find a way past Tambakis before halftime. The goalkeeper recorded six saves on the night.
Just after halftime, the Rowdies were caught out defensively as Donovan Ewolo found Fortune free in the box for a first-time finish past John McCarthy in net.
Steinberger’s goal in the 54th minute was a clever chip past Tambakis to give the Rowdies momentum in the second half.
Ultimately, the Rowdies couldn’t capitalize on that momentum as shot after shot bounced just wide or was saved.
North Carolina killed the match off in the rain as Steven Miller’s shot slipped through McCarthy’s gloves and went just inside the post to make the score 3-1.
“It’s a disappointing night, still I think the team gave it all until the end,” Rowdies captain Sebastian Guenzatti said. “We couldn’t find the goal. They scored two very good goals. … We leave disappointed but with our heads high because it’s our first loss of the season. We have to stay focused and get back to work during the week.”
Even with the loss, the Rowdies remain in first place in the USL Championship’s Eastern Conference heading into next week’s match against the Charleston Battery at Al Lang Stadium. That match is part of the first-ever Rays to Rowdies doubleheader event. It will follow the Rays vs. Los Angeles Angels game at Tropicana Field at 1:10 p.m. Combined ticket packages are available here.
North Carolina: Dre Fortune - 19th minute (assisted by Nazmi Albadawi)
North Carolina: Dre Fortune - 48th minute (assisted by Donovan Ewolo)
Tampa Bay: Zach Steinberger - 54th minute (assisted by Tarek Morad)
North Carolina: Steven Miller - 77th minute (assisted by Ben Speas)
North Carolina: Nazmi Albadawi - 28th minute
Tampa Bay: Antoine Hoppenot - 61st minute
Rowdies XI (3-5-2): GK John McCarthy; D Mohamed Kone (Antoine Hoppenot 46'), Pape Diakite, Tarek Morad; M Malik Johnson, Kwadwo Poku, Andrew Tinari (Zach Steinberger 45+1'), Dom Oduro, Caleb Richards; F Sebastian Guenzatti (c) (Brandon Allen 74'), Juan Tejada
North Carolina XI (4-5-1): GK Alex Tambakis; D Sam Brotherton, Alex Comsia, DJ Taylor, Aaron Guillen; M Ben Speas (Austin Panchot 78'), Graham Smith, Dre Fortune (Viktor Igbekoyi 80'), Nazmi Albadawi, Steven Miller (c); F Donovan Ewolo (Robert Kristo 85')