The Rowdies hope that their home dominance will get them to the conference finals
The Tampa Bay Rowdies started their march to prove they are an elite soccer franchise worthy of playing in any league. In their first season as a member of the USL, the Rowdies delighted their boisterous crowd with a dominating performance rolling over FC Cincinnati 3-0 at Al Lang Field and they are 1-0 in USL Cup Playoffs, that features a one-and-done-format.
Now, they earned another home game advancing to the Eastern Conference Semifinals in their first USL Cup Playoffs. They will stay home Wat Al Lang Field next Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. against the defending USL Champions, the New York Red Bulls II. They are the No. 7 seed in this year’s USL Cup Playoffs but New York pulled off a big win defeating the No. 2 seeded Charleston 4-0 on Saturday.
Meanwhile, back at Al Lang Stadium, last night Tampa Bay shutout FC Cincinnati with a pair of goals from Marcel Schäfer and a third from Georgi Hristov.
“You can just feel the (playoff atmosphere) in the air,” Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell said. “It had a playoff feel about it and the noise the fans made was tremendous.”
After a five-year drought from the postseason action, it didn’t take long for the Rowdies to get the fun started. Before all of the fans got into their seats just eight minutes into the match Schäfer took a pass from Hristov in the box and he blasted a low shot between the legs of Cincinnati goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt and into the back of the net for an early 1-0 Rowdies lead.
That goal set the pace for a strong night as the Rowdies would not be denied as they dominated FC Cincinnati in front of their home crowd. Tampa Bay improved its home unbeaten streak to 14 matches and is now 12-1-5 at Al Lang. Overall, the Rowdies are 15-7-11.
“At home, we’ve been very good and a lot of it is down to how we start games,” Campbell said. “We know they’re a really dangerous team. They had four really high quality attacking players on the field, so we didn’t want to give them any encouragement early on. I think from start to finish, we were excellent.”
Tampa Bay doubled its advantage in the 25th minute with Schäfer’s second of the night and seventh of the season. His shot from 25 yards out beat Hildebrandt again to put the Rowdies ahead 2-0.
“It’s always good when you start really early with a goal like that,” Schäfer said. “We had a great game today in front of our amazing supporters. This is like a home fortress for us and they’re our 12th man. … It was a special day for us. That’s what you work for.”
When leading by 2-0 at home, the Rowdies have lost just once in 17 matches this season, Tampa Bay cruised to the finish. They tallied goal three in the 67th minute when Hristov scored his team-high 14th goal of the year.
“It was great,” Hristov said. “It was a great game for us. We played very well and we defended very well. We won and we’re advancing to the next stage.”
Tampa Bay managed eight shots on goal and allowed just one. It was Rowdies goalkeeper Matt Pickens’ 10th clean sheet in 33 games this year.
Now, the Rowdies move ahead to face the defending USL Cup champions in the next round. Tampa Bay split its season series with the Red Bulls this year, losing 4-2 in New Jersey on Sept. 2 and beating them 3-2 at home on Oct. 4.
Tampa Bay: Marcel Schäfer – 8th minute (assisted by Georgi Hristov)
Tampa Bay: Marcel Schäfer – 25th minute
Tampa Bay: Georgi Hristov – 67th minute (assisted by Martin Vingaard)
Cincinnati: Jimmy McLaughlin – 52nd minute
Tampa Bay: Georgi Hristov – 61st minute
Cincinnati: Kenney Walker – 63rd minute
Tampa Bay: Joe Cole – 84th minute
Rowdies XI (4-2-3-1): GK Matt Pickens; D Darnell King, Hunter Gorskie, Neill Collins, Zac Portillos; M Martin Vingaard, Marcel Schäfer (Justin Chavez 90+2′); M Walter Restrepo (Michael Nanchoff 86′), Joe Cole (c), Georgi Hristov (Darwin Jones 74′); F Sebastian Guenzatti
FC Cincinnati XI (4-4-2): GK Mitch Hildebrandt; D Justin Hoyte, Austin Berry (c), Harrison Delbridge; M Tyler Polak (Aodhan Quinn 79′), Andrew Wiedeman (Kadeem Dacres 57′), Kenney Walker, Corben Bone, Jimmy McLaughlin; F Danni König, Djiby Fall (Kyle Greig 62′)
Stats and quotes from the USL the photo from the Rowdies, with the video also provided by the USL.