ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (April 8, 2018) — The Tampa Bay Rowdies were too much for the Ottawa Fury FC to handle Saturday night, scoring five goals in the final 30-plus minutes to post the first 5-0 win in modern Rowdies history.
The Rowdies had posted three 4-0 wins before, but Zac Portillos’ late headed goal pushed the scoreline into new unknown territory. The win actually echoed a result from early last season, a 4-0 win over Toronto FC II, also in the first week of April. Both matches were against Canadian opposition in the second home game of the season and both very nearly ended in 4-0 victories for the Rowdies.
Here’s Three Things from the thrashing…
1. Fernandes on fire
For now, Leo Fernandes’ first goal of the night has been credited as an own goal, but we’ll consider it a Fernandes goal as his initial shot was on target before the deflection from Chris Mannella to put it into his own net. With that in mind, Fernandes scored two goals and posted an assist to continue his insanely hot start to the season.
Fernandes’ first season with the Rowdies was cut short by a knee injury last June, but he has returned with a vengeance in 2018, providing a near constant threat on Tampa Bay’s left wing.
“He is on fire. He is white hot at the minute. It’s a good battle between him and Georgi (for the team scoring lead.) We’ve got plenty of good competition for the attacking positions within our squad.”
Fernandes has now scored in three of the Rowdies’ four matches this season and must be one of the first names on the team sheet at the moment with so much of the Rowdies’ attacking play coming through him.
In last night’s match, 42.9 percent of the Rowdies’ attacks came down the left wing, compared to 36.5 percent on the right and 20.6 percent through the central area.
Fernandes’ second goal of the night was a particularly brilliant bit of skill, performing a stepover that bamboozled Fury FC defender Colin Falvey to create the space Fernandes needed to shoot from a really sharp angle.
Perhaps even more important than his contribution on the field has been Fernandes’ contribution to Rowdies culture with his signature goal celebration, which was born from a locker room basketball game the Rowdies play. The sign has taken over goal celebrations throughout the team, in the stands and on the Twittersphere.
2. Portillo’s first goal
It’s hard not to feel really happy for Zac Portillos, who scored the first goal of his professional career Saturday night, a majestic header in stoppage time to push the scoreline to 5-0. You could tell from the way Portillos celebrated, and the way his teammates celebrated with him, that it was a special moment for the young Rowdies defender.
Portillos got off to a rough start in his Rowdies career, rupturing his Achilles’ tendon in each of his first two seasons. Still, Portillos persevered, working his way back onto the field and making himself a regular starter once again.
“It feels amazing,” Portillos said. “You work so hard and to finally get that goal feels really great. It’s even better to get a great win like that in front of our home fans. … It’s been a long road. I can’t thank the staff enough for really believing in me and helping me work through everything. It was a tough time, but tough times pass and I feel better. It’s great to get my first goal for the Rowdies.”
3. Georgi’s pursuit
With another goal Saturday night — his seventh all-time against Ottawa — Georgi Hristov is now just one goal short of tying Derek Smethurst’s long-standing record as the Rowdies’ all-time leading goalscorer with 57 goals between 1975 and 1978.
Though all-time Rowdies history is just around the corner, Georgi isn’t ready to talk about it quite yet.
“I’m trying to stay very in denial, if I can say it that way,” he said. “I think you make it harder for yourself. I know there’s excitement and I understand that, but for me, I wish people wouldn’t talk about it so much. I just want to get the three points and do my job.”
Point taken, Georgi. We’ll leave it there for now.