- Theme Parks
- Walt Disney World
- Vacation Tips
A sold out crowd of 7,710 saw the Tampa Bay Rowdies get their first ever USL campaign off to a fine start as they defeated Orlando City B 1-0 at Al Lang Stadium, St. Petersburg.
Georgi Hristov’s penalty kick in the 57th minute was the difference between the two teams and deservedly gave the Rowdies the three points.
The game was played at a good tempo but neither side seemed to have a cutting edge up front. The best chances of the game came in the first half as Hristov wasted two good opportunities to give the home team the lead. In the 39th minute he found himself with just OCB keeper Earl Edwards Jr. to beat but the keeper did well to close down the striker and deflect the ball to safety. Moments later, Hristov found himself in the open again on the right side of the box but fired wildly over the crossbar.
“It was a big game with a big atmosphere and my players came good tonight,” Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell (pictured above left) said. “I’m delighted for Georgi because he worked his absolute socks off and if anyone deserved a goal tonight, it’s him.”
A vociferous following of around 250 fans made the trip from Orlando and they saw seven players make their OCB debuts as well as eight First Team squad players appear. Edwards, defenders Kevin Alston, Conor Donovan, Tommy Redding, Victor “PC” Giro, midfielders Danny Deakin, Pierre Da Silva and Richie Laryea all started for the visitors. Hadji Barry was also scheduled to join the team but didn’t travel after playing in a scrimmage earlier in the day.
“The positive for me was the reaction to going a goal down. I thought the boys dusted themselves off and got back on the game. I thought for a period in the second half we controlled it, they dropped in a little bit deeper and we controlled possession,” OCB Head Coach Anthony Pulis (pictured above) said. “It’s all learning. We’ve got a lot of young guys out there that haven’t played substantial professional games so it’s probably an eye opener for some of them coming into this environment tonight.”
The Lions created the first opportunity of the game early on as Richie Laryea played a nice combination with Danny Deakin. The former South Carolina Gamecock one-touched it back to Laryea on the edge of the area but his shot to the far post was saved comfortably by Rowdies keeper Akira Fitzgerald.
Tampa Bay’s first chance came in the 18th minute when Rowdies debutant Marcel Schäfer won a corner kick with a deflected shot. Michael Nanchoff’s delivery made its way to Hristov at the back post, but he couldn’t steer his effort on target.
Schäfer was at the heart of the attack again in the 24th minute, firing a shot that Edwards saved. The goalkeeper gave up a rebound that Leo Fernandes nearly pounced on for a tap-in, only for it to be cleared at the last second.
Just after the half hour mark, Joe Cole nearly put Tampa Bay ahead with a curling free kick from just outside the box that just went by the far post.
Tampa Bay Rowdies 0 Orlando City B 0
The opening exchanges after the break saw each team cancel each other out. Neither seemed to know the way to goal as they each battled for control of the game. The Rowdies finally took the lead in the 57th minute after Fernandes split two defenders and raced into the box all alone. Edwards came off his line and tripped the midfielder, giving referee Ted Unkel no choice but to point to the penalty spot. Hristov converted with a shot straight down the middle of the goal to spark frenzied celebrations by the home crowd.
“It was an unbelievable atmosphere,” Hristov said. “I think everyone realizes that out organization is trying to do something big for Tampa Bay, so I appreciate everyone coming out to support us. I’m happy to have scored the goal on an important night for the Rowdies. We played really well tonight and should’ve won by more, so I’m proud of the way all my teammates played. There’s things we can do better, but this is a good start.”
As the game closed out, the visitors pushed for an equalizer while the Rowdies were content to hit on the counter attack. In the 78th minute, Joe Cole raced clear and delivered a clever chip but Edwards was alert to push the ball over the crossbar.
The win was the Rowdies’ first in a home opener since the 2012 season and maintained their unbeaten record in home openers in the modern era, which now stands at 3-0-5 (W-L-T). It was also the first time former Orlando City player Luke Boden (pictured above) had played against his old team. “I was in Orlando for six years and of course there’s some emotion when coming up against your previous team and teammates. I’m a Tampa Bay Rowdies player now though and I have to do my job and that is to win games.”
Tampa Bay Rowdies are back in action next weekend when they host Toronto FC II at Al Lang Stadium on Saturday, April 1. Tickets to that match are available by calling (727) 222-2000 or by clicking here.
OCB will play its first game in Orlando City Stadium on Thursday, March 30, against Louisville City FC. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET. Tickets can be purchased at www.OrlandoCitySC.com/OCB/
Orlando City B – GK Earl Edwards, Jr., D Kevin Alston (Zach Carroll 64’), Conor Donovan, Tommy Redding, PC, M ⓒ Lewis Neal, Paul Clowes, Danny Deakin (Austin Martz 83’), Pierre Da Silva, Richie Laryea (Albert Dikwa 74’), F Michael Cox
Substitutes: GK Jake Fenlason, M Ryley Kraft, F Joe Gallardo, Ben Polk
Tampa Bay Rowdies – GK Akira Fitzgerald, D Darnell King, Damion Lowe, Neil Collins, Luke Boden, M Martin Vingaard, Marcel Schafer, Michael Nanchoff, ⓒ Joe Cole (Justin Chavez 90+1’), Leo Fernandes, F Georgi Hristov (Alex Morrell 90+4’)
Substitutes: GK Matias Reynares, D Zac Portillos, Tamika Mkandawire, Kyle Porter, Keith Savage
More photo’s at www.FloridaLeisurePhotography.com