BETHLEHEM, Pa. (September 27, 2017) — The Tampa Bay reduced their magic number to four points Wednesday night with a 2-2 road draw against the Bethlehem Steel FC.
Georgi Hristov and Hunter Gorskie each scored goals to give Tampa Bay a lead, but the Rowdies couldn’t quite get across the line with a win, settling for a point instead. With that point in the bag, the Rowdies now need only four more points to clinch their first playoff berth since winning the championship in 2012.
Here’s Three Things from the match…
1. Gritting out a road point
In a vacuum, of course the Rowdies would have preferred to hold onto one of their leads and secure victory Wednesday night, but in context, they shouldn’t feel too bad about the point they earned.
Following Wednesday's results, Tampa Bay trails first-place Louisville City FC by 10 points in the Eastern Conference. Barring a complete collapse from Louisville, the highest the Rowdies can likely finish is second place in the East. If Tampa Bay hopes for a deep playoff run, the Rowdies will have to leave the safety of Al Lang Stadium at some point.
In that context, the Rowdies can gain a little confidence from their performance on the road against a likely playoff team. Tampa Bay lost back-to-back road games a few weeks ago to Saint Louis FC and New York Red Bulls II, two teams not currently in the playoff positions. Since then, the Rowdies have picked up a road win in Harrisburg (a non-playoff team) and drawn 2-2 in Bethlehem.
Tampa Bay has two more road games left this regular season to continue building confidence on the road so that they can play as comfortably away from home as they seem to do in St. Pete.
2. Hunter Goalskie does it again
When the Rowdies signed center back Hunter Gorskie on August 22, they couldn’t have expected him to contribute offensively as often as he has in his first four games with the Rowdies.
Fresh off being named to the USL Team of the Week on Tuesday, Gorskie scored his third goal for Tampa Bay on Wednesday night. All three goals have come off set pieces, where Gorskie’s attacking position has paired perfectly with Marcel Schäfer’s dead ball deliveries. Schäfer picked up his ninth assist of the season on Gorskie’s goal against Bethlehem.
“It feels amazing,” Gorskie said. “I was in the right place at the right time and just let the rest take care of itself.”
3. Ready for a rematch
Whatever emotions were stirred in the Rowdies by their failure to close out a win against Bethlehem won’t have too long to fester before Tampa Bay takes another shot.
This morning, Tampa Bay returned home to St. Petersburg.
Tomorrow morning, Bethlehem will make the same journey ahead of a rematch under the lights in St. Petersburg on Saturday night.
After not playing each other in the six months since the season started, both squads will now prepare for their second meeting in four days.
It’s a unique dynamic, but one the Rowdies are ready for.
“You’ve just got to be focused and you’ve got to be up for it,” Gorskie said. “Now there are no secrets. You know what the other team is good at it and you know what they’re bad at. It’s just about showing up on game day.”