INDIANAPOLIS (September 27, 2018) — The Tampa Bay Rowdies’ three-game winning streak was halted Wednesday night with a 2-0 loss to the Indy Eleven on a night that the Rowdies didn’t play poorly, but couldn’t really ever get going either.
Here’s Three Things from the match…
1. The playoff race remains tight
With only about two and a half weeks remaining in the USL regular season, the playoff race remains extremely tight. Tampa Bay lost a little ground on the playoff places Wednesday night, now sitting three points short of the line and with a few teams standing in the way. The Rowdies’ margin of error is now all but gone. Tampa Bay must win each of its last three matches (at Atlanta United 2, home vs Charlotte and at Bethlehem Steel) and hope for a little help from results elsewhere.
The bottom line is that the door to the postseason is still open, if only just a crack.
Tampa Bay is off this weekend and will sweat results from the matches that are being played as other bubble teams have a chance to widen the gap. The good news is that many bubble teams are facing each other, so dropped points are a certainty. Bethlehem and Ottawa will clash in Canada, while New York and Nashville will meet in Tennessee. North Carolina faces a relatively winnable home game against Richmond.
2. Out of rhythm
For whatever reason, the Rowdies never really clicked Wednesday night at Lucas Oil Stadium, struggling to string together any sweeping offensive moments on the artificial turf that has dogged them so often in recent years. Tampa Bay took plenty of shots, but they often came from choppy turnovers or botched clearances, rather than established possession and build-up play.
Tampa Bay completed 72.1 percent of its passes (lower than usual), but Indy only completed 78.1 percent of its own passes. It was an entertaining game, it just lacked a little bit of quality from both teams.
Of the Rowdies’ five starting midfielders, only Lance Rozeboom was the only player to complete more than 80 percent of his passes.
3. Another controversial moment
Down 1-0 just before the hour mark, it looked like the Rowdies had found a way back into the match when Carlyle Mitchell was adjudged to have committed a handball on the very edge of his box as Afrim Taku chipped a ball forward for Sebastian Guenzatti.
Center referee Daniel Radford blew his whistle and signaled for a penalty kick, triggering the usual protestations by Indy Eleven players. Radford went his assistant referee Jeffrey Swartzel and ultimately called off the penalty kick.
The play was certainly a close one as it appeared the ball hit Mitchell’s shoulder as he tried to move his arms out of the way, so the Rowdies won’t have too many gripes about the penalty kick being overturned, but how it all happened falls into a gray area. The USL doesn’t have a Video Assistant Referee system, so referees can only use their initial viewing of an incident to make their decisions.
Indy Eleven color commentator Brad Hauter seemed to indicate that the officials impermissibly watched replays of the incident on the videoboard before making their final decision. Even if the decision was correct, Rowdies fans will have questions about whether it was reached in a valid manner.