ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (July 7, 2017) — The Tampa Bay Rowdies bested FC Cincinnati and outlasted a lengthy weather delay Thursday night to pick up a 2-0 win and break their seven-game winless skid.
The win was Tampa Bay’s first since May 19, with a new formation and a new spark plug in the attack leading the way. Here’s Three Things from the match…
1. Switching up the formation
After playing a 4-2-3-1 for most of the season, the Rowdies switched things up tactically last weekend, quietly deploying a 4-3-3 in an eventual 2-0 loss to the Charleston Battery. Undeterred by that result, Head Coach Stuart Campbell again opted for a 4-3-3 with Keith Savage playing as the lone midfielder behind Joe Cole and Marcel Schäfer as the attacking midfielders.
The Rowdies' average position against Charleston is shown in green
The Rowdies' average position against Cincinnati is shown in black
Re-energized by the tactical tweak, the Rowdies’ attack looked threatening throughout the match. Schäfer dropped a little deeper than planned, but overall, the Rowdies held their shape well with a good attacking influence from full backs Darnell King and Zac Portillos, plus dynamic play from forwards Alex Morrell, Martin Paterson and Georgi Hristov.
Morrell, a Lakeland native, played particularly well, contributing to both goals and providing a constant threat down the Rowdies' right wing with his dribbling proficiency and pace.
"I’m delighted for (Morrell)," Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell said. "I’m delighted for the boy. He comes in and gives the place a lift. No matter rain or shine, win or lose, he’s always got a big smile on his face and he’s bouncing about like the little kid that he looks."
2. Keeping a clean sheet
Tampa Bay’s defensive unit started the year at a blistering pace, posting six clean sheets in the Rowdies’ first nine matches. Since then, though, the form had dipped until last night. Since shutting out Louisville City FC in a 2-0 win on May 13, the Rowdies played eight league matches without a clean sheet.
That skid ended Thursday night with Matt Pickens making five saves to clean his fourth clean sheet of the season.
Of note, the clean sheet came without two of the Rowdies’ regular defenders, with Damion Lowe away on international duty and Luke Boden suspended due to yellow card accumulation.
3. Portillos’ USL debut
Rowdies left back Zac Portillos made his USL debut last night in place of Boden, marking his participation in a league match for the first time since May 28, 2016, when he sustained a season-ending injury early last year.
Portillos made his competitive return to action in May of this year, playing against Jacksonville Armada FC U23 in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on May 16, but had to wait until Thursday night to make his formal USL debut.
Portillos played the full 90 minutes and looked sharp throughout. He had two tackles, one clearance and one interception while completing 46 passes and winning seven duels.
Portillos in action Thursday night against FC Cincinnati