ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (August 12, 2019) – The Rowdies started hot but quickly fell out of rhythm Saturday night, ultimately falling 1-0 to Birmingham Legion FC at Al Lang Stadium in a disappointing defeat.
Here’s Three Things from the match...
1. Momentum derailed
If you watched only the first 15 minutes of Saturday night’s match and then turned it, you probably would have guessed the final score would be a comfortable Rowdies win with a few goals on the board and a clean sheet.
The graphic below is a snapshot of the first 15 minutes of play.
The Rowdies were absolutely dominating play. Forty-three percent of the match was being played in Birmingham’s defensive third, compared to only 16 percent in Tampa Bay’s end. The Rowdies had an eye-popping 76.8 percent possession. Birmingham was helpless.
But then the feeling of the match turned somewhat inexplicably. Tampa Bay maintained plenty of possession (finishing the game at 64.5 percent) but Legion FC’s counterattacks proved lethal. If not for a great performance from Rowdies goalkeeper Macklin Robinson, the score would have been more lopsided in Birmingham’s favor.
It wasn’t that the Rowdies were using an untested lineup. Basically the same group of players had beaten Charleston 5-0 away from home only a week earlier, with Pape Diakite returning from suspension as the only change.
It’s just that Birmingham had a good gameplan and the Rowdies weren’t clinical enough. With more than a week before Tampa Bay’s next match, there will be plenty of time to dissect things and get back on track.
“I think we stopped doing the real basics that are a real staple of everything we’ve been good at,” Rowdies Head Coach Neill Collins said. “Credit to Birmingham. They probably feel they survived an onslaught, came through that and should have scored their own goals before halftime. I really thought going into halftime at 0-0, we could have learned from the let off and gone on to take on the second half. But we didn’t and we got punished. We never got back into it. It’s a big learning lesson for everyone tonight.”
Maybe the reason the Rowdies lost is very simple. In 10 seasons of modern team history, the Rowdies have only won 5-0 twice. Both times, they’ve followed that up with a loss. Let’s at least be grateful this setback wasn’t a 5-0 loss like last year’s travesty against New York Red Bulls II.
2. Checking in on the standings
Speaking of New York…
It’s a Monday and the Rowdies aren’t in first place in the USL Championship’s Eastern Conference, having fallen behind one point behind the Red Bulls.
The Rowdies took over first place by beating the Red Bulls head-to-head on May 18 and have held it every week since then, lasting nearly three months on top. Some teams temporarily took the lead by playing midweek games, but come Monday, the Rowdies were always atop the table.
It seems that with 11 games to go in the regular season, the race for seeding will be extraordinarily tight.
3. Robinson’s big night
Heading into the season, young Rowdies goalkeeper Macklin Robinson figured to be Tampa Bay’s rarely-seen third goalkeeper, based on the profiles of John McCarthy and Chris Konopka. McCarthy has been the Rowdies regular starter and Konopka was picked for the U.S. Open Cup matches in May, leaving Robinson without minutes into the summer.
But the pecking order has changed in recent months, so when McCarthy has been unavailable due to injury, it’s been Robinson that has gotten the call.
His first three starts of the year came on the road, but Robinson finally got his chance to play at Al Lang on Saturday night and he made the most of it.
While he was beaten with one shot, he made seven spectacular saves including a series on denials on one-on-one chances after Birmingham broke through the back line.