ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (October 15, 2016) — A loss in Miami on Saturday night would’ve put a major dent in the Tampa Bay Rowdies’ playoff aspirations. With the table so tight and so few matches remaining, each result carries so much weight. After 21 minutes of the Rowdies’ match against Miami FC, things didn’t look good.
The Rowdies had fallen behind 2-0 to a Goal of the Year candidate from Jaime Chavez and a Kwadwo Poku goal, but Tampa Bay didn’t give up. The Rowdies dug their heels in and salvaged a result that allows them to fight another day.
Now, a closer look at the match.
1. Avoiding defeat
While the Rowdies have maybe been guilty of drawing too many matches, rather than winning, they’ve done enough to remain in the postseason race with just three games to go. Perhaps the Rowdies’ best quality in recent months is how hard they work to avoid defeat.
Tampa Bay has lost just once since August 21, nearly two months ago. Tampa Bay’s last two losses, both by 1-0 scores to FC Edmonton, were on August 20 and October 9. By the time the Rowdies’ next match kicks off on Wednesday, October 19, the August 20 loss will be nearly two months old.
The Rowdies haven’t lost to a team below them in the NASL Combined Standings since July 30, 13 matches ago, nearly half a season.
The Rowdies need to qualify for the postseason first, but such great commitment to avoiding defeat could come quite handy in November.
2. Coastal Cup winners
In addition to all the playoff implications on the table, the Rowdies had a chance to pick up some silverware Saturday night.
Tampa Bay entered the match needing just a point or better to clinch the 2016 Coastal Cup, which it earned with the 2-2 draw.
The Coastal Cup is contested annually by Florida’s NASL sides, meaning it was a four-way competition this season between the Rowdies, Miami FC, Fort Lauderdale Strikers and Jacksonville Armada. With 14 points won against Florida sides in eight matches so far this year, the Rowdies have won their first Coastal Cup since 2013.
The Rowdies won it every year from 2010-2013, but the Strikers won it back-to-back years in 2014 and 2015 before Tampa Bay reclaimed it last night.
3. Hristov and Guerra on the scoresheet
Georgi Hristov and Juan Guerra scored the Rowdies’ goals Saturday night, with Hristov nodding a header home in the 27th minute and Guerra finishing from the top of the box in the 66th for his first goal of the season.
Hristov’s glancing header was his 10th goal of the season, making him the first Rowdies players to score double-digits goals since 2013, when he scored 12 goals and Luke Mulholland scored 11. He’s currently on pace to lead the Rowdies in scoring for the third time in four seasons since his arrival in Tampa Bay.
Guerra’s finish was his first goal of the season and third since joining the Rowdies last season.
It was a classy finish assisted by Joe Cole and a crucial goal in the Rowdies’ season.