ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (February 17, 2018) — With one month left to go before the USL regular season kicks off, the Tampa Bay Rowdies showed a few promising flashes, but not quite enough in a 2-1 loss to the Montreal Impact on Saturday night at Al Lang Stadium.
The Rowdies trailed 1-0 at the break before pulling even in the 75th minute through a Jochen Graf goal, but the lead was short-lived as Montreal’s Ignacio Piatti scored the game-winner just two minutes later.
“I thought we performed really well against a really good team,” Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell said. “We created quite a few chances and limited them to very few chances against us. With the ball we looked very good and without it we looked nice and solid. That’s what preseason is all about, testing yourself against good opposition like Montreal.”
Campbell fielded a strong team to start the match and the Rowdies looked decent early, but a series of whistles and slow restarts ground the match nearly to a halt and neither team looked hugely impressive in the opening 45 minutes.
Still, Montreal found a way to sneak into halftime up 1-0, with Michael Petrasso’s cross from the right wing finding the forehead of Saphir Taider in the 44th minute to put the visitors ahead.
After a host of substitutions at halftime, the Rowdies came to life a little bit more in the second half, highlighted by a barrage of scoring opportunities around the hour mark.
First, Junior Flemmings beat his defender and drew Montreal goalkeeper Evan Bush off his line in 56th minute. Flemmings put a shot on target with no goalkeeper to save it, but Petrasso recovered just in time to deny the Rowdies with a goal-line clearance.
Less than a minute later, Michael Nanchoff was fouled inside the box and the Rowdies were awarded a penalty kick. Georgi Hristov stepped to the spot but didn’t put forth his best effort, with Bush making a save to keep the Impact ahead.
Finally, on the ensuing Rowdies corner kick, Hunter Gorskie’s header skimmed the top of the crossbar on its way out of play as Tampa Bay failed to capitalize on a quick succession of chances.
The Rowdies would wait until the 75th minute to find their footing when Graf collected a pass from Sebastian Guenzatti and delicately lifted the ball over an onrushing Bush to pull Tampa Bay back into the match at 1-1.
“This week, we wanted to take another step forward in building the relationships and the trust between the guys,” Campbell said. “I think it was a positive night for us and it’s one that we’ll look back at to identify what we did well and what we could have done better with.”
The tie was short-lived, though, as Piatti helped Montreal to a win with a smooth finish just two minutes later.
More important than the result though, was some interesting tactical flexibility on display from the Rowdies.
For the first thirty minutes, Tampa Bay’s midfield trio of Jack Blake, Marcel Schäfer and Joe Cole rotated seamlessly as a triangle, with each dropping deep to pick up the ball and then popping up in an advanced position not long after.
The final half hour of the match was unique with Hunter Gorskie stepping forward into midfield from his usual center back position for the first time since joining the Rowdies.
Tampa Bay will be back at training this week to build toward next Saturday’s preseason clash against the Philadelphia Union at 7:30 at Al Lang Stadium. That match will be proceeded by Montreal Impact vs New York City FC at 5 p.m. in an exciting doubleheader. Tickets are available here.
Impact: Saphir Taider - 44th minute (assisted by Michael Petrasso)
Rowdies: Jochen Graf - 75th minute (assisted by Sebastian Guenzatti)
Impact: Ignacio Piatti - 77th minute (assisted by Saphir Taider)
Rowdies: Georgi Hristov - 32nd minute
Impact: Raheem Edwards - 32nd minute
Impact: Michael Petrasso - 61st minute
Rowdies XI (4-2-3-1): GK Akira Fitzgerald (Cody Mizell 46'); D David Najem (Kyle Curinga 63'), Hunter Gorskie, Neill Collins (Tamika Mkandawire 63'), Zac Portillos (Max Lachowecki 46'); M Jack Blake (Ivan Magalhães 63'), Marcel Schäfer (Michael Nanchoff 32'); M Junior Flemmings (Alex Morrell 63'), Joe Cole (Martin Vingaard 46'), Leo Fernandes (Sebastian Guenzatti 46'); F Georgi Hristov (Jochen Graf 63')
Impact XI (4-5-1): GK Evan Bush; D Michael Petrasso, Victor Cabrera, Zakaria Diallo, Jukka Raitala; M Shamit Shome, Samuel Piette (C), Saphir Taider, Ignacio Piatti, Raheem Edwards; F Matteo Mancosu