ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (April 9, 2017) — The Tampa Bay Rowdies posted another win and kept another clean sheet Saturday night, topping the Ottawa Fury FC 1-0 to maintain their perfect record to start the 2017 season.
It was the Rowdies’ third win in three matches and marked the first time the team has ever started a season 3-0-0. Now, a closer look at the result.
1. Keeping it clean
On Friday night, a goal scored by Colorado Springs Switchbacks forward Aaron King (a former Rowdies player) in the 12th minute of a match against San Antonio FC meant the Rowdies were officially the only team in the USL that hadn’t yet conceded a goal.
Of course, San Antonio FC was playing its third match, so the Rowdies needed to make it to the 13th minute of Saturday’s contest against Ottawa to say they lasted the longest without conceding a goal to start the year.
The Rowdies took it one step further — or rather, 77 minutes further. And counting.
Tampa Bay kept its third-consecutive clean sheet on Saturday night, equaling a club record set in July of 2012.
Rowdies goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald made another three saves to post his third clean sheet of the year. He made two saves in the first two matches combined. Despite facing a few more shots, Fitzgerald was quick to credit the players playing in front of him.
The same defensive five (Fitzgerald + defenders Darnell King, Damion Lowe, Neill Collins and Luke Boden) have played every minute of the season so far. Defensive midfielders Marcel Schäfer and Martin Vingaard have also played 270 minutes so far.
“They’re incredible,” Fitzgerald said. “All four of those guys have been really doing well for me, really limiting the chances in all three games. Today was the first time that I’ve really seen some shots, but I’m just happy to help them out and I was really happy to help the team get three points.”
2. Georgi scores again
After starting as the Rowdies’ center forward and scoring in each of the first two games, Georgi Hristov was moved back to the midfield Saturday in the absence of Leo Fernandes, who missed the match with an ankle injury.
The position change didn’t stop Hristov from finding the back of the net, though. He scored the only goal of the match in the 47th minute, heading a deflected Luke Boden cross past Fury FC goalkeeper Callum Irving to score his third goal in three matches.
Hristov is tied for the early lead in the USL Golden Boot race. Every goal Hristov scores extends his lead as the Rowdies’ leading scorer in the Modern Era. He’s now scored 41 goals for the club.
Notably, Hristov’s goals have all come in different ways.
Against Orlando City B on March 25, Hristov scored from the penalty spot. Against Toronto FC II a week later with his foot from open play. Saturday’s goal against Ottawa was header from open play.
3. Fortress Al Lang
Tampa Bay had an unusual schedule to start the season, opening with a rare three-game home stand.
With nine points on offer without leaving St. Petersburg, the Rowdies had a great chance to stake an early claim atop the Eastern Conference Standings and announce their intentions early.
Nine points later, Tampa Bay has done just that.
The Rowdies couldn’t have asked for much more at this point in the season, having won all three matches they’ve played, scoring six goals and conceding none.
Now, Tampa Bay must prepare to replicate those results away from home as it prepares for a tough two-game road trip.
The Rowdies visit Louisville City FC next weekend before heading to Ohio to take on FC Cincinnati on Wednesday, April 19 in their next two matches. Louisville and Cincinnati finished second and third, respectively, in the Eastern Conference last season. Louisville is in second place again this season.
The USL's current Eastern Conference standings